Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Pope's Visit

Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did find Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Barcelona very moving.  After all, I’m not Catholic, not even Christian.  I’m Jewish but not religious.  I’m socially liberal, I believe gays should have all the same rights as anyone else, I do not think people should dictate to women whether or not they should (or can) have an abortion, I think we should all have the right to die when we feel the time has come, and I don’t like church being mixed with state affairs.

All of this makes me an unlikely person to be impressed or even interested in the Pope’s visit today.  But I was.  I was very interested and very moved.  Why?  Well, because I live in Spain where only 14.4% of Spaniards attend Mass regularly, but 73% of them define themselves as Catholic and to them the Pope is a very important person.  Also, I’ve been informed about the details of his visit all week when each day another street would be closed off, chairs set up in perfect rows by scores of volunteers, and this would be part of the day’s news.  Then there is the fact that his visit is important to Catalunya.  Today’s ceremony took place before a congregation of 6500 people including King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain.  Another 50,000 people followed the Mass outside with more than 300 priests there to offer Holy Communion.  His homily condemning gay marriage and the trend for society, this society, to become less religious was unfortunate although not unexpected.  Spain’s socialist government has enabled gay marriage, faster divorce, and easier access to abortion.  But that was not the main reason for his visit.  He came to consecrate Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia.  Begun in 1882 and not expected to be finished for another fifteen years, the Sagrada Familia is already an UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Today’s consecration by the Pope lifted it from the status of a church to that of a basilica and, in my opinion, this is a good thing.

The Pope delivered part of his homily in Catalan, an important signal to the world that the Catalan language has merit and is important.  His visit provided the means by which people all over the world could see the interior of the church for the first time.  Antoni Gaudi was a very devout Catholic and spent the last fifteen years of his life devoted only to the building of this huge and unique church, living like a monk on the grounds.  He is buried in the crypt.  He is now going through the process (whether he knows it or not) of becoming a saint of the Catholic Church.  He, I have no doubt, would have been very pleased and honored by today’s visit.  


  1. That was very interesting, Dvora. I checked out Sagrada Familia online and saw some photos. Beautiful.


  2. Thanks Bekah! I wanted to put photos, but I don't have any of my own. It's definitely a very unusual building (as are all of Gaudi's, come to think of it).