THE POPE CONSECRATES THE CHURCH OF THE SAGRADA FAMILIA
VATICAN CITY, 7 NOV 2010 (VIS) - At 9 a .m. today the Pope travelled by popemobile from the archbishopric of Barcelona to the church of the Sagrada Familia, masterpiece of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.
Work on the building, which began in the year 1882, continues today thanks to donations from all over the world and is scheduled to come to an end in 2026. The final project is due to comprehend eighteen spires, twelve dedicated to the Apostles, four to the Evangelists, one to Jesus - at 170 metres the highest of all - and one to the Virgin Mary.
Before Mass, the Holy Father travelled around the outside of the church where thousands of people were gathered to greet him.
Benedict XVI entered the building by a secondary entrance where he was welcomed by the president of the Sagrada Familia foundation and by Jordi Bonet, head of the building project. He then went on to meet with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain in the Museum Hall of the Sagrada Familia.
Going on then to highlight how this day "marks an important step in a long history of hope, work and generosity that has gone on for more than a century", the Holy Father made special mention of the people whose efforts made it possible to build the church, especially "the man who was the soul and the artisan of this project, Antoni Gaudi, a creative architect and a practising Christian who kept the torch of his faith alight to the end of his life, a life lived in dignity and absolute austerity. This event is also in a certain sense the high point of the history of this land of Catalonia which, especially since the end of the nineteenth century, has given an abundance of saints and founders, martyrs and Christian poets. It is a history of holiness, artistic and poetic creation, born of the faith, which we gather and present to God today as an offering in this Eucharist".
Meeting King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain
This work of art "stands as a visible sign of the invisible God, to whose glory these spires rise like arrows pointing towards absolute light and to the One Who is Light, Height and Beauty itself. In this place, Gaudi desired to unify that inspiration which came to him from the three books which nourished him as a man, as a believer and as an architect: the book of nature, the book of Sacred Scripture and the book of the liturgy. In this way he brought together the reality of the world and the history of salvation, as recounted in the Bible and made present in the liturgy. He made stones, trees and human life part of the church so that all creation might come together in praise of God, but at the same time he brought the sacred images outside so as to place before people the mystery of God revealed in the birth, passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"In this way, he brilliantly helped to build our human consciousness, anchored in the world yet open to God, enlightened and sanctified by Christ. In this he accomplished one of the most important tasks of our times: overcoming the division between human consciousness and Christian consciousness, between living in this temporal world and being open to eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as beauty. Antoni Gaudi did this not with words but with stones, lines, planes, and points. Indeed, beauty is one of mankind's greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth. Beauty also reveals God because, like Him, a work of beauty is pure gratuity; it calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness".
King Juan Carlos with Pope Benedict after the Mass
"In this sense", the Pope added, "I consider that the dedication of this church of the Sagrada Familia is an event of great importance, at a time in which man claims to be able to build his life without God, as if God had nothing to say to him. In this masterpiece, Gaudi shows us that God is the true measure of man; that the secret of authentic originality consists, as he himself said, in returning to one's origin which is God. Gaudi, by opening his spirit to God, was capable of creating in this city a space of beauty, faith and hope which leads man to an encounter with Him Who is truth and beauty itself. The architect expressed his sentiments in the following words: 'A church [is] the only thing worthy of representing the soul of a people, for religion is the most elevated reality in man'".
Benedict XVI asked God "that in the land of Catalonia new witnesses of holiness may rise up and flourish, and present to the world the great service that the Church can and must offer to humanity: to be an icon of divine beauty, a burning flame of charity, a path so that the world may believe in the One Whom God has sent".
"I implore the Lord of our lives that, from this altar, which will now be anointed with holy oil and upon which the sacrifice of the love of Christ will be consumed, there may be a flood of grace and charity upon the city of Barcelona and its people, and upon the whole world. May these fruitful waters fill with faith and apostolic vitality this archdiocesan Church, its pastors and its faithful".
The Pope concluded his homily in Catalan, saying "I wish to commend to the loving protection of the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, April Rose, Mother of Mercy, all who enter here and all who in word or deed, in silence and prayer, have made this possible this marvel of architecture. May Our Lady present to her divine Son the joys and tribulations of all who come in the future to this sacred place so that here, as the Church prays when dedicating religious buildings, the poor may find mercy, the oppressed true freedom and all men may take on the dignity of the children of God. Amen".
Queen Sophia and King Juan Carlos
Before praying the Angelus , the Pope recalled how in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre yesterday the beatification had taken place of Servant of God Maria Barbara of the Blessed Trinity, foundress of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. "May the deep faith and fervent charity with which she followed Christ", he said, "awaken in many the desire to devote their lives completely to the greater glory of God and the generous service of their brothers and sisters, especially the poorest and the most needy".
The Pope then travelled to the archbishopric of Barcelona , where he had lunch.
PV-SPAIN/ VIS 20101107 (1870)
Report: Vatican Information Service. Photos: La Vanguardia