MADRID, Spain, APRIL 30, 2003 (Zenit.org).- José María Álvarez del Manzano, who will soon end a 13-year stint as mayor of Madrid, has high hopes for John Paul II’s visit here this weekend.
Here, he spoke about the visit and the canonization Mass that the Pope will celebrate Sunday.
Q: What do you think of John Paul II’s visit to Spain this coming May 3 and 4?
Álvarez del Manzano: The Pope’s visit to our country is an event of the first magnitude. This is the fifth pastoral visit, in which John Paul II comes to strengthen, with his presence, Christian witness in regard to the defense of human rights, the dignity of the person, and the cause of peace.
On one hand, the Pope is coming to Spain, to Madrid, to meet with young people, for whom he has always demonstrated predilection and affection, to celebrate a prayer vigil with them. On the other hand, the Pope is coming to canonize five Spanish blessed who lived charity in a heroic way in the 20th century, to remind us that holiness is also possible in our days.
Among them is Madrid’s Discalced Carmelite María Maravillas de Jesús, founder of numerous Carmelite convents, and José María Rubio, born in Almeria, but known as the apostle of Madrid’s neighborhoods.
Q: What message do you think the Holy Father will bring?
Álvarez del Manzano: The message John Paul II is bringing us is a message of peace and faith in all its dimensions.
The Pope’s presence in Madrid could not be more opportune, when Europe is reflecting and debating on its own nature, on the values that will uphold the European Union, which must be based on indisputable Christian roots.
It is my hope that, with his presence, the Pope will help Spain to find its place in the new Europe, which in addition to formulas of political and economic organization, must seek its Christian roots to continue defending human rights, the dignity of the person, cultural and interreligious dialogue, and the solidaristic development of peoples.
Q: Will you be present at the ceremony the Pope will celebrate in Madrid?
Álvarez del Manzano: In my role as mayor of Madrid and as the representative of the people of Madrid, I will be present in the committee that will receive His Holiness when he arrives in Madrid, and I shall attend with great emotion the act of canonization of the five Spanish blessed, which will be held in Colon Square.
Madrid will receive John Paul II with gratitude, joy and hope. The people of Madrid, together with the rest of Spaniards who will accompany him in this visit, will once again express their affection and fervor to the Holy Father, as they have done so massively in his previous visits. This visit gives us the opportunity to thank His Holiness for his example, his sacrifice, his inner consistency and his faith.