Everything is ready for the Pope’s visit to Barcelona

Barcelona is preparing the final details for the Pope’s visit. Benedict XVI is coming to Barcelona on Saturday night and will leave on Sunday evening. He is coming to declare the Sagrada Familia church a “basilica” and dedicate the temple to God.


November 5, 2010 10:09 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- Barcelona is ready for the Pope’s visit. It will be a historical visit, as it is the second time that a Pope will come to Barcelona, after Jean Paul II did so in 1982. The visit comes with great expectations and has raised intense public debate. Discussions between atheist and pro-secular state associations and those defending the importance of the Pope’s visit have been local entertainment for the last few days. Some have criticised the Pope’s visit because of the virtual paralysation of the city, the high costs and the attendance of civil representatives to a religious ceremony. Others underlined the uniqueness of the event, the coverage that Barcelona will have in world media and the significance of the Pope coming to declare the Sagrada Familia temple as a “basilica”. Nevertheless, despite the debate, the city is getting ready for the Pope’s visit.

The Sagrada Familia and surrounding areas are being prepared for the event. 51,000 people will follow Sunday morning’s ceremony on chairs located in the streets surrounding the temple and in the Monumental bullring. 36,000 chairs will be placed on the streets and 15,000 in the arena. Attendees in the streets will follow the ceremony on giant screens. Another 6,500 will have the privilege of following the mass inside the church. All of the attendees in the temple and on the streets have already been registered and have special invitations.

Different police corps are being deployed: the Spanish police, the Catalan police, the Barcelona police and even private security are working to have everything under control. There are even people in charge to make sure no one steals the chairs.

The surrounding streets have been blocked off to road traffic since Thursday afternoon. Parking has been prohibited since Thursday and motorbikes are being removed from the area. For security and organisational reasons, pedestrians will be prohibited from the area from midnight on Saturday if they are not registered residents or do not have a special pass. In fact, the blockage has provoked indignation for some residents, while others are renting balconies just to see the Pope. Some protesters criticise the high cost and disturbances, not in line with the secularism of the Catalan society.

However, the Pope’s visit is one of the biggest events of the year, as the medical services being deployed prove. The Catalan Emergency Services will send out 40 ambulances for the Pope’s procession. In addition, the Red Cross will dispense 168 professionals and volunteers on the streets. Altogether, there will be 14 doctors, more than 30 nurses, and about 200 hundred lifeguards and medical transport technicians. 4 tent hospitals will be assembled in the Sagrada Família surroundings and in strategic parts of the Pope’s trajectory. It will be the largest deployment of medical services in the last few years. One of the reasons for such a deployment is the expected old age of many attendees.

The Pope’s schedule

The Pope arrives on Saturday at 21:00 in a plane coming from Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia. He will go straight to the city centre in a black Mercedes, heading to the Episcopal Palace where he will have dinner and sleep. The palace was originally built in the 12th and 13th centuries, and later enlarged and renovated. The building has a central yard, as all of the Barcelona Medieval Palaces. The Pope will be sleeping in a room located on the first floor, the noble floor of the palace.

On Sunday morning at 9 o’clock, he will leave the palace in the Popemobile and head towards the Sagrada Família. He will make a street procession, being cheered on by crowds, who will wave at him with Vatican, Catalan, Spanish, and foreign flags.

He is expected to arrive at the Sagrada Família at 9:30 am and will meet with the King and Queen of Spain in a room in the temple’s museum. Afterwards, the mass will begin at 10 am. It is expected he will talk in Catalan during the ceremony. The Pope will dedicate Gaudí’s world famous church to God. Visiting and blessing the masterpiece of architecture has been one of the Pope’s personal wishes. Benedict XVI will declare the temple a “basilica”, a title that only churches offering regular liturgical services can have.

The Sagrada Família is unfinished, as many old cathedrals were in the past. The plan is to finish it by 2026 if the current construction pace is maintained. However, the interior of the temple is already finished and will host regular services starting this year.

The mass will end at 12:00 pm. 800 singers from the top choirs of Catalonia will sing during the ceremony, such as the children’s choir L’Escolonia from Montserrat Abbey. The Pope will then go to the Birth Façade and pray the Angelus.

After the Sagrada Familia ceremony, at 12:45, the Pope will take the Popemobile to the Episcopal Palace, which is located in the Gothic Quarter. There, he will have lunch with the cardinals and bishops from the ceremony.

The Pope will embrace Catalan culture

During lunch, the Archbishop of Barcelona will offer the Pope a chocolate replica of the Sagrada Familia. Eating figures made of chocolate is a typical Catalan tradition for Easter. In addition, they will drink “Moscatell”, a sweet Catalan wine. The Pope will also have the opportunity to see a demonstration of the Catalan human towers, the Castellers.

Benedict XVI will thus have a good taste of Catalan culture during his visit, a culture he will embrace by speaking in Catalan during parts of the ceremony at the Sagrada Família next Sunday morning.