The Pope spoke in Catalan and praised the Sagrada Família basilica

The Pope has declared the temple a “basilica”. He has also praised Antoni Gaudí’s church and the architect’s talent. The Pope was cheered by believers along the streets of Barcelona on his way to the Sagrada Família. Protesters against the Pope and his visit also showed their disagreement as the Popemobile went by. The ceremony started on time and, as announced, Prime Minister Zapatero did not attend. Benedict XVI continued criticising liberal laws and vindicated the traditional family and its values

CNA / Gaspar Pericay Coll

November 7, 2010 01:59 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- The Pope spoke in Catalan during several moments of the dedication ceremony of the Sagrada Família, a personal will of Benedict XVI. He will also declare the Sagrada Família a “basilica”. The Pope met the King and Queen of Spain on his arrival. Prime Minister Zapatero will not be attending but he will be catching up with the Pope this evening at the airport before the Papal plane leaves Spain. The Pope left towards the Sagrada Família on board the Popemobile. Believers were cheering him while protesters were booing and showing banners saying “I’m not expecting you”. A group of less than a hundred homosexual activists kissed in front of the Popemobile.

250,000 people on the streets to see the Popemobile

The Popemobile’s route towards the Sagrada Família started with a few minutes delay. The Pope left the Episcopal Palace and was cheered by a group of Catholics waiting in front of Barcelona’s Cathedral. They were singing religious songs and waving Vatican, Catalan and Spanish flags for more than an hour. At 9.15 am, when the Popemobile departed in front of the Cathedral, euphoria sparked. From then on, whistles and shouts against the Pope and his visit were also heard. A group of homosexuals, less than a hundred, kissed in front of the Pope as he went by. The image contrasted with the Catalan police dressed in their gala uniform, nuns and young believers in their Sunday's best, all gathered by the Pope's presence. The Pope made his way towards the Sagrada Família, where he was cheered by many followers. According to Barcelona Police, 250,000 people gathered along the streets to see the Popemobile and cheer Benedict XVI.

Impressive police presence

The Catalan Police directed in close collaboration with the rest of the security forces an impressive deployment. Forces from all the security departments participated, but the Catalan Police, in charge of the coordination, was the biggest in numbers by a large difference. Catalan Police, Barcelona Police, Spanish Police, Guàrdia Civil, Secret Services, private security and Vatican agents secured the Pope’s way towards the temple. In a route more than 3 kilometres long, a row of police, 1 every 3 metres, was occupying both sides of the street to control the crowd.

For security reasons, no official figures will be given about the exact number of policemen deployed, but Catalan Police agents from all corners of Catalonia have come, as well as 800 students of the Police academy. In addition, special units have been mobilised, such as SWATs, bomb disposal squads, dog patrols, underground agents, and the central investigation unit.

More than 2,300 journalists registered

Not only was the security highly impressive. The press covererage was also massive. A few days ago it was announced that more 1,600 journalists were already registered. In the end, the number of registered journalists reporting on the visit was over 2,300. An international press centre was set up at Barcelona’s Medieval shipyards, home to the Maritime museum.

The Pope arrives at the Sagrada Família

The streets next to the temple were full of people, some already seated on the 36.000 chairs displayed in the surrounding streets to follow the ceremony on giant screens. 15,000 other chairs had been set up at the neighbouring Monumental bullring. Organisers said some 13,000 people went to the Monumental.

At the doors of the Sagrada Família, where the Glory Façade will be built, the Pope was welcomed by the King and Queen of Spain. They headed towards the Sagrada Família museum where they talked for some minutes. Prime Minister Zapatero will not be attending but he will be catching up with the Pope this evening at the airport before the Papal plane leaves Spain.

Some minutes before 10 am, the Pope got dressed for the ceremony, which started on time. 6,500 people were inside the temple and 49,000 people followed the ceremony on the giant screens installed in the streets. The purpose of the religious ceremony was to dedicate Gaudí’s temple to God, a personal will of Benedict XVI. He also declared the Sagrada Família a “basilica”.

Benedict XVI: “En nom del Pare, del Fill i de l’Esperit Sant

The Pope pronounced his first words in public inside the Sagrada Família in Catalan. Benedict XVI used Catalan language on several occasions during the ceremony, in which he also spoken in Spanish and Latin. Catalan language is official in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, Valencia, and a part of Aragon. Catalan is official in a territory comprised of 12 million people

A politicised ceremony to dedicate the Sagrada Família to God

The Pope decided to centre the ceremony around the family and the traditional values. He criticised the abortion laws and vindicated traditional family and values. He also reflected on the role of Christianity in society. The reason for the speech is the name of Gaudí’s temple, literally meaning the Sacred Family, but there was also a political motivation surrounding his visit to Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela.

In fact, the Pope decided to turn this into a political visit, breaking the separation between church and State. On his plane from Rome to Santiago de Compostela, he criticised Prime Minister Zapatero’s laws and what he labelled as an “aggressive secularism”. He also compared the current times Catholicism is living in Spain to the atmosphere in the 1930s. In 1936 Spanish Civil War started with a military fascist upraising against the legitimate Republican government. The upraising, the war and the following fascist dictatorship were backed by the Catholic Church, although individual priests, nuns and monks criticised Franco. It is also a well-known fact that during the Civil War, clerics were killed and churches were burnt.

During the Sagrada Família ceremony, the Pope moderated his words. He focused his speech on the traditional family and its values, vindicating them. He criticised the abortion law and underlined the “holiness of human life”.

The Pope spoke in high regard of Gaudí

While he was declaring the temple a “basilica”, he praised Antoni Gaudí’s talent. He said the Sagrada Família links religion with art. He also considered Antoni Gaudí to be an “exceptional Christian”.

The ceremony lasted 3h 15 minutes

The ceremony lasted much more than expected. In fact, the Pope left the Sagrada Família 45 minutes behind the official schedule. The ceremony ended outside, with the Angelus prayer in front of the Nativity Façade, the only one of the 3 façades of the temple that was built in Gaudí’s lifetime.

The Pope meets with Catalan President

At the end of the ceremony.The Pope met with the Catalan President, José Montilla. He received 2 gifts from the Catalan Government: a chessboard with figurines inspired by the Sagrada Família, as Benedict XVI is a fan of this game, and a book that makes an overview of the 800 years of Catalan culture, which was issued coinciding with last year's Franckfurt Book Fair. The Pope personally thanked Montilla and offered him in exchange two presents, one for him and one for his wife.

Back to the Episcopal Palace for lunch

The Pope left the Sagrada Família on board the Popemobile at 13:18 and headed back to the Episcopal Palace. He made the exact same journey that he did on his way to the temple but at a much faster pace. By then, the Pope was more than half an hour behind schedule.

He arrived at the Episcopal Palace, located in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, at 13:34 and he then had lunch with all the bishops and cardinals who attended the morning ceremony. The Pope spent the previous night in this building, which is the residence of the Archbishop of Barcelona.

A meal for 150 people was served. The Pope was offered a taste of Catalan sweet wine, “Moscatell”, and "Catalan cream" as dessert. The Archbishop of Barcelona, Lluís Martínez Sistach, also wanted to offer the Pope a 1.2 metre-high replica of the Sagrada Família, made out of chocolate. Chocalate figurines and replica items are a typical Catalan tradition for Easter.

Visit to a charity centre and, afterwards, to the airport

In the afternoon, around 17:00, the Pope will head towards the Guinardó neighbourhood in a black Mercedes. He will go to the Nen Déu Hospital, an Archdiocese of Barcelona’s Charity work for children with Down syndrome and other disabilities. Then, before 18:00 he will go directly to the airport.

At the airport he is supposed to have a brief chat with Prime Minister Zapatero. It will be the only moment in the Pope’s 2-day visit to Spain they will both coincide. After the meeting, a brief good-bye ceremony will be held in the recently inaugurated reparation hangar of Iberia, a building that is able to host the giant Airbus 380. The Pope and the King of Spain will have a final talk. The Iberia plane transporting the Pope back to Rome is expected to take off at 19:15.