WYD destinations – Zaragoza

On 10 August I, and some 100 other young people, will depart Utrecht to head south to Spain. Our destination: the World Youth Days in Madrid. Along the way to the ultimate celebration of faith, hope and love that is the vigil and Mass with people from all over the globe and united with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we will stop at various places. The first is the Archdiocese of Zaragoza, where we will take part in the so-called Days in the Diocese as preparation for the actual WYD, which starts on 16 August.

The Archdiocese of Zaragoza is indicated in dark green on this map

The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Zaragoza is one of Spain’s 71 dioceses, archdioceses and other circumscriptions. It is an ancient diocese, tracing its history back to the 5th century, when it was named for Caesar Augustus. In 1318 it became an archdiocese.

As a metropolitan archdiocese it has four suffragan dioceses, indicated in light green on the map to the left: Barbastro-Monzón, Huesca, Tarazona and Teruel y Albarracín.

The city of Zaragoza, from which the archdiocese takes its name, is located on the Ebro river, and so is the cathedral church, the Catedral de El Salvador de la Seo. Zaragoza also has a co-cathedral, the Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, located just a few hundred meters upriver from the cathedral. This Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is built on the site where the Apostle St. James the Great saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin in the year 40, even before her assumption into heaven. Subsequently, the place, tradition has it, became the site for the first church in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Centrepiece of the basilica is the small wooden statue of the Virgin, given to the Apostle with the instruction to build a church in her honour.

Our Lady of the Pillar

Together with young pilgrims from Poland and Italy, we will be the guests of the clergy and faithful of the city and archdiocese. There will be cultural and spiritual events, in and around the city and in the co-cathedral. Just before our departure for Madrid, Archbishop Manuel Ureña Pastor is expected to offer Mass for us all, quite likely in concelebration with clergy from the archdiocese and from our own groups.

Archbishop Manuel Ureña Pastor, 66, who came to the see of Zaragoza in 2005 after having headed three other dioceses - Ibiza, Alcalá de Henares and Cartagena - since his consecration in 1988

The five Days in the Diocese will be neatly divided in events for smaller and larger groups, as well as major events for all pilgrims. Among the latter will be a Christian art festival on the next to last day. The archdiocese offers a word of welcome and a schedule.

Papal soundbytes – Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona

It’s been three days, but last weekend’s papal visit to Spain deserves to mentioned here. I’ll do that through the – by now – standard ‘papal soundbytes’; quotes taken from the texts available here. These quotes are nothing but highlights, and my personal choice at that. But I do believe that they reflect essential and important issues raised by Pope Benedict XVI. For the full context, do read the complete texts at the link above.

Pope Benedict speak with Crown Prince Felipe upon his arrival at Lavacolla airport in Santiago de Compostela

Welcoming ceremony, Santiago de Compostela:

“Like the Servant of God John Paul II, who from Compostela exhorted the old Continent to give a new impulse to its Christian roots, I too wish to encourage Spain and Europe to build their present and to project their future on the basis of the authentic truth about man, on the basis of the freedom which respects this truth and never harms it, and on the basis of justice for all, beginning with the poorest and the most defenceless. A Spain and a Europe concerned not only with people’s material needs but also with their moral and social, spiritual and religious needs, since all these are genuine requirements of our common humanity and only in this way can work be done effectively, integrally and fruitfully for man’s good.”

Visit to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The pope with Santiago's archbishop Julián Barrio Barrio

“To go on pilgrimage is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendour and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe.”

“Truth and freedom are closely and necessarily related. Honestly seeking and aspiring to truth is the condition of authentic freedom. One cannot live without the other. The Church, which desires to serve unreservedly the human person and his dignity, stands at the service of both truth and freedom. She cannot renounce either, because what is at stake is man himself, because she is moved by love for man, “the only creature on earth which God has wanted for its own sake” (Gaudium et Spes, 24), and because without this aspiration for truth, justice and freedom, man would lose his very self.”

Homily at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela

The pope in prayer during Mass

“I would like this message to reach all young people: this core content of the Gospel shows you in particular the path by which, in renouncing a selfish and short-sighted way of thinking so common today, and taking on instead Jesus’ own way of thinking, you may attain fulfilment and become a seed of hope.”

“From this place, as a messenger of the Gospel sealed by the blood of Peter and James, I raise my eyes to the Europe that came in pilgrimage to Compostela. What are its great needs, fears and hopes? What is the specific and fundamental contribution of the Church to that Europe which for half a century has been moving towards new forms and projects? Her contribution is centred on a simple and decisive reality: God exists and he has given us life. He alone is absolute, faithful and unfailing love, that infinite goal that is glimpsed behind the good, the true and the beautiful things of this world, admirable indeed, but insufficient for the human heart. Saint Teresa of Jesus understood this when she wrote: “God alone suffices”.”

“We cannot live in darkness, without seeing the light of the sun. How is it then that God, who is the light of every mind, the power of every will and the magnet of every heart, be denied the right to propose the light that dissipates all darkness? This is why we need to hear God once again under the skies of Europe; may this holy word not be spoken in vain, and may it not be put at the service of purposes other than its own. It needs to be spoken in a holy way. And we must hear it in this way in ordinary life, in the silence of work, in brotherly love and in the difficulties that years bring on.”

Homily at the dedication Mass of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

The imposing interior of the Sagrada Familia during the Mass of consecration of the basilica.

“What do we do when we dedicate this church? In the heart of the world, placed before God and mankind, with a humble and joyful act of faith, we raise up this massive material structure, fruit of nature and an immense achievement of human intelligence which gave birth to this work of art. It 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.”

“The Church of herself is nothing; she is called to be the sign and instrument of Christ, in pure docility to his authority and in total service to his mandate. The one Christ is the foundation of the one Church. He is the rock on which our faith is built.”

“In this masterpiece, Gaudí 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.”

The pope anoints the altar of the Sagrada Familia with holy oil, consecrating it for its use as the table on which Christ's sacrifice on the corss will be made present once again.

“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”.”

“Life has changed greatly and with it enormous progress has been made in the technical, social and cultural spheres. We cannot simply remain content with these advances. Alongside them, there also need to be moral advances, such as in care, protection and assistance to families, inasmuch as the generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end. Only where love and faithfulness are present can true freedom come to birth and endure. For this reason the Church advocates adequate economic and social means so that women may find in the home and at work their full development, that men and women who contract marriage and form a family receive decisive support from the state, that life of children may be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception, that the reality of birth be given due respect and receive juridical, social and legislative support. For this reason the Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family.”

Address at the Obra Benéfico-Social Nen Déu

“The dedication of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia this morning has highlighted that churches are the sign of the true sanctuary of God among men. Here, I would like to emphasize how, through the efforts of this and similar church institutions, […], it is clear that, for the Christian, every man and woman is a true sanctuary of God, and should be treated with the highest respect and affection, above all when they are in need. In this way, the Church desires to put into practice the words of the Lord in the Gospel, “I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).”

The silhouettes of Pope Benedict XVI and Msgr. Guido Marini, as the leave the Sagrada Familia

Photo credit:
1: AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano
2: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images
3, 4, 6: AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
5: Reuters/Stefano Rellandini

Weekend trip to Spain

This weekend, Pope Benedict XVI takes another stab at emulating his predecessor, the travelling pope. The Holy Father will be visiting Spain for the second time in his pontificate (his third visit will be next year, during the World Youth Days in Madrid). He will be visiting two cities in specific. Tomorrow morning he will fly to Santiago de Compostela, where he will meet with representatives of the Spanish bishops and offer Mass at the cathedral where, tradition says, the remains of Saint James the Apostle are buried. The main reason for the visit to this city is the Jubilee Year which is declared in every year that the feast day of St. James (25 July) falls on a Sunday.

The other city that Pope Benedict will visit is Barcelona, where he’ll arrive on Saturday evening. He’ll be meeting with the king and queen of Spain, but the main focus of the Sunday, and likely the entire visit, is the dedication of the still-unfinished church of the Sagrada Família. The construction of this massive church, designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudí, started in 1882 and is not expected to be completed until 2025. Nonetheless, as major parts of the interior are ready for use, the church as a whole will be consecrated during a Mass at 10 in the morning, local time. It promises to be quite a spectacle.

The Expiatory Church of the Holy Family, the Sagrada Família, still under construction