On the Trip to Spain

"I Invited Europe to Open Itself Ever More to God"

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave today at the general audience in Paul VI Hall, as well as the preliminary greetings he gave in St. Peter's Basilica.

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[In St. Peter's:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

I am happy to receive you and to address to each one of you my cordial welcome. In particular, I greet you, faithful of Carpineto Romano, who come together with your pastor, Bishop Lorenzo Loppa, to repay the brief but intense visit that I had the joy of making to your land last September, on the occasion of the bicentenary of the birth of Pope Leo XIII. Dear friends, I wish to renew to all my heartfelt gratitude for the warm reception you gave me on that occasion. I am thinking of the availability of the civil authorities, particularly the mayor and the town council, as well as the eager commitment of your bishop, of the parish priest and of their collaborators, especially in the preparation of the Eucharistic celebration, so well taken care of and participated in. The memory of that event, charged with ecclesial and spiritual meaning, revives in each one the desire to reflect increasingly on the life of faith, in the wake of the teachings of your illustrious fellow citizen Pope Leo XIII, whose courageous pastoral action inspired a beneficial renewal of Catholics' commitment in society.                     

Dear friends, do not tire of entrusting yourselves to Christ and of proclaiming him with your life, in the family and in every environment. It is this that men also today expect from the Church. With such sentiments, I impart to all from my heart my blessing, which I willingly extend to your families and to all dear persons.  

I cordially greet you pilgrims from the Czech Republic, who are gathered so numerously to exchange the visit I had the joy of making to your country last year. Dear friends, you are welcome! I keep a cherished and happy memory of my pleasant trip in you beautiful land. I am thinking in particular of the deferent courtesy of the various authorities; of the warm welcome I received from venerable brothers in the episcopate, from priests, from consecrated persons and from all the faithful, who wished to express their faith around the Successor of Peter with enthusiasm. I was also struck by the attentive consideration given to me by all those who, though being far from the Church, are however searching for genuine human and spiritual values, of which the Catholic community itself wishes to be joyful witness. I pray that the Lord will make fruitful the graces of that trip, and I hope that the Christian people of the Czech Republic will continue, with renewed impetus, to render everywhere a courageous evangelical testimony. I impart to all of you from my heart a special apostolic blessing, extended to your families and to your entire homeland.

[In Paul VI Hall]

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today I would like to recall with you the apostolic journey to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, which I had the joy of making last Saturday and Sunday. I went there to confirm my brothers in the faith (cf. Luke 22:32); I did so as a witness of the Risen Christ, as a sower of the hope that does not disappoint or deceive because its origin is the infinite love of God for all men. 

The first stage was Santiago. From the welcome ceremony, I was able to experience the affection that the people of Spain nourish for the Successor of Peter. I was truly received with great enthusiasm and warmth. In this Compostelian Holy Year, I wished to be a pilgrim together with the very numerous people who went to that famous shrine. I was able to visit the "House of the Apostle James the Greater," who continues to repeat to him who arrives there in need of grace, that in Christ, God has come into the world to reconcile it with himself, not imputing to men their faults. 

In the imposing cathedral of Compostela, giving with emotion the traditional embrace to the saint, I thought how this gesture of hospitality and friendship is also a way of expressing adherence to his word and participation in his mission. [It is] a strong sign of willingness to be conformed to the apostolic message, which, on one hand, urges us to be faithful custodians of the Good News that the apostles have transmitted, without yielding to the temptation to alter, diminish or bend it to other interests and, on the other, it transforms each one of us into tireless heralds of faith in Christ, by word and the testimony of life in all areas of society. 

Seeing the number of pilgrims present at the solemn holy Mass, which I had the great joy to preside over in Santiago, I reflected on what made so many people leave their daily occupations to undertake the penitential way to Compostela, a way that at times is long and tiring: It is the desire to reach the light of Christ, for which they yearn in the depth of their heart, even if often they are unable to express this well in words. In moments of loss, of searching, of difficulty, as well as in the aspiration to reinforce the faith and to live in a more coherent way, the pilgrims to Compostela undertake a profound itinerary of conversion to Christ, who has assumed to himself weakness, the sin of humanity, the miseries of the world, bearing them to where evil no longer has any power, where the light of goodness illumines everything. It is a people of silent walkers, from every part of the world, who rediscover the ancient medieval and Christian tradition of pilgrimage, going through villages and cities permeated with Catholicism. 

In that solemn Eucharist, lived by so many faithful present with intense participation and devotion, I prayed with fervor that all those who go on pilgrimage to Santiago may receive the gift of becoming true witnesses of Christ, whom they have rediscovered at the crossroads of thought-provoking roads leading to Compostela. I also prayed so that pilgrims, following in the footsteps of numerous saints who in the course of the centuries have undertaken the "Way of Santiago," may continue to keep alive the genuine religious, spiritual and penitential meaning, without yielding to banality, distraction or fashions. That road, intersected by ways that furrow vast lands forming a network through the Iberian Peninsula and Europe, was and continues to be the place of encounter of men and women of the most diverse provenance, united by the search for the faith and the truth about themselves, and inspired by profound experiences of sharing, fraternity and solidarity. 

It is precisely faith in Christ that gives meaning to Compostela, a spiritually extraordinary place, which continues to be a point of reference for today's Europe in its new configurations and prospects. Preserving and reinforcing openness to the transcendent, as well as a fruitful dialogue between faith and reason, between politics and religion, between economy and ethics, will make possible the building of a Europe that, faithful to its essential Christian roots, is able to respond fully to its own vocation and mission in the world. Because of this, certain of the immense possibilities of the European continent and trusting in its future of hope, I invited Europe to open itself ever more to God, thus favoring the prospects of an authentic, respectful and solidary encounter with the populations and civilizations of the other continents. 

Then on Sunday in Barcelona I had the truly great joy of presiding over the dedication of the Church of the Holy Family, which I declared a minor basilica. In contemplating the grandeur and beauty of that building, which invites raising one's gaze and soul to the Most High, to God, I remembered the large religious constructions, such as the medieval cathedrals, which have profoundly marked the history and physiognomy of the principal cities of Europe. That splendid work -- very rich in religious symbols, beautiful in the intertwining of shapes, fascinating in the play of lights and colors -- virtually an immense sculpture in stone, fruit of profound faith, of spiritual sensibility and of the artistic talent of Antoni Gaudí, refers one to the true sanctuary, the place of real worship, Heaven, where Christ entered to stand in the presence of God in our favor (cf. Hebrews 9:24). In that beautiful temple, the brilliant architect was able to represent admirably the mystery of the Church, to which the faithful are incorporated with baptism as living stones for the construction of a spiritual building (cf. 1 Peter 2:5). 

The Church of the Holy Family was conceived and planned by Gaudí as a great catechesis on Jesus Christ, as a canticle of praise to the Creator. In that very imposing building, he put his genius at the service of the Beautiful. In fact, the extraordinary expressive and symbolic capacity of the artistic forms and motifs, as well as the innovative architectural and sculptural techniques evoke the supreme Source of every beauty. The famous architect considered this work as a mission in which his whole person was involved. From the moment he accepted the assignment of the construction of that church, his life was marked by a profound change, perceiving the need to prepare himself spiritually to succeed in expressing in the material reality the unfathomable mystery of God. It can be said that, while Gaudí worked on the construction of the temple, God was constructing in him the spiritual building (cf. Ephesians 2:22), reinforcing him in the faith and bringing him ever closer to the intimacy of Christ. Inspiring himself continually in nature, work of the Creator, and dedicating himself passionately to know sacred Scripture and the liturgy, he was able to realize in the heart of the city a building worthy of God and, hence, worthy of man. 

In Barcelona, I also visited the work of the "Child God," an initiative from more than 100 years ago, very linked to that archdiocese, where children and young people of different abilities are looked after with professionalism and love. Their lives are precious in the eyes of God and invite us constantly to come out of our egoism. In that house, I participated in the joy and profound and unconditional charity of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts, in the generous work of doctors, educators and so many other professionals and volunteers, who work with praiseworthy dedication in that institution. I also blessed the first stone of a new residence that will be part of this work, where everything speaks of charity, of respect for the person and his dignity, of profound joy, because the human being's value is in what he is, and not just what he does. 

While I was in Barcelona, I prayed intensely for families, vital cells and hope of society and of the Church. I also remembered those who suffer, in particular in these moments of serious economic difficulties. I had present, at the same time, young people -- who accompanied me throughout the visit to Santiago and Barcelona with their enthusiasm and joy -- so that they would discover the beauty, the value and commitment of marriage, in which a man and a woman form a family, which with generosity receives life and supports it from its conception until its natural end. All that is done to support marriage and the family, to help the neediest persons, all that enhances the grandeur of man and his inviolable dignity, contributes to the perfecting of society. No effort is vain in this sense. 

Dear friends, I thank God for the intense days I spent in Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona. I renew my gratitude to the king and queen of Spain, to the princes of Asturias and to all the authorities. I turn my grateful and affectionate thought once again to the dear brother archbishops of those two particular Churches and to their collaborators, as also to all those who spent themselves generously so that my visit in those two wonderful cities would be fruitful. They were unforgettable days, which will remain impressed in my heart! In particular, the two Eucharistic celebrations, carefully prepared and intensely lived by all the faithful, also through songs taken from the great musical tradition of the Church or from the genius of modern authors, were moments of true interior joy. May God recompense all, as only he knows how; may the Most Holy Mother of God and the Apostle St. James continue to accompany their way with their support. Next year, God willing, I will go to Spain again, to Madrid, for World Youth Day. I entrust henceforth to your prayer this providential initiative, so that it will be an occasion of growth in the faith for so many young people. 

[Translation by ZENIT]

[The Holy Father then greeted the people in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This past weekend I made an Apostolic Journey to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, two great cities of Spain and Europe. I came as a pilgrim among pilgrims in this Holy Year of Compostela, to venerate the Apostle Saint James the Greater. The traditional practice of embracing the image of the Saint symbolizes our embrace of the Gospel which he preached and the mission which we receive in Baptism to bear daily witness to Christ and to strengthen society by our fidelity to the wisdom and truth of the Gospel. On Sunday, in Barcelona, I dedicated the Church of the Sagrada Familia, the masterpiece of the great architect Antoni Gaudi. In this magnificent edifice Gaudi wished to celebrate the eternal source of all beauty, made flesh in Jesus Christ, who calls all humanity to become, in the Church, a temple in which God dwells. Let us pray for all families, that they may fulfil their unique role in society, and for all the people of Spain and Europe, that they may always find in their Christian roots the inspiration to pursue, along the pathways of our time, the historic mission of the Continent in today's  world. 

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today's Audience, especially those from England, Denmark, Sweden, Japan and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke Almighty God's blessings of joy and peace.

© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

[The Pope concluded in Italian:]

My thought now goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. In yesterday's liturgy we celebrated the feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, "caput et mater omnium ecclesiarum." Together with it we remembered also the churches in which your communities gather and those that still await to be built in Rome and in the world. Dear young people, sick people and Christian spouses, I exhort you to collaborate with all the People of God and with all men of good will to build up the House of the Lord. Always be "living stones" of the spiritual building that is the Church, walking together in service of the Gospel, in the offer of prayer and in the sharing of charity.

[Translation by ZENIT]