Pope Defends Church's Role in Life of Spain

In Message to National Pilgrimage to Saragossa

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SARAGOSSA, Spain, MAY 23, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says that the Church in Spain should «be understood and accepted in its true nature and mission» amid a national debate over secularity.

The Pope expressed his plea in the message he sent Sunday to Spanish bishops and faithful congregated in Saragossa’s Pilar Square.

It was read during the Mass celebrated on the occasion of the national pilgrimage to that city on the first centenary of the coronation of the Virgin of Pilar and the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. More than 50 bishops and tens of thousands of faithful participated in the pilgrimage.

Amid the ongoing debate on secularism, promoted by the Spanish Socialist Labor Party, which has been governing this primarily Catholic country for more than a year, the Holy Father said that the Church «tries to promote the common good for all, with respect both for persons as well as society.»

The papal message was read by Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, papal nuncio in Spain, who was interrupted several times by applause.

Benedict XVI in his message said he is aware that «the Catholic Church in Spain is ready to take firm steps in its evangelizing projects» and added that «the transmission of the faith and believers’ religious practice cannot be confined to the purely private realm.»

«In this hour of discernment for many hearts, you, the Spanish bishops, look again to her who, with total willingness, received the life of God that burst into history,» he said.

The Pope referred to the question of the family and the defense of human life as central points for Christians.

«In domestic coexistence,» he said, «the family realizes its vocation of human and Christian life, sharing joys and expectations in an atmosphere of understanding and reciprocal help.

«This is the reason why the human being who is born, grows up and is formed in the family, is able to undertake without uncertainty the path of goodness, without allowing himself to be disoriented by fashions or alienating ideologies of the human person.»

Benedict XVI entrusted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, «who gave birth to the Author of life,» all human life «from the first instant of its existence until its natural end,» and prayed that she «preserve every home from all social injustice, all that degrades its dignity and attacks its liberty.»

In the context of the pilgrimage, Cardinal Antonio Rouco of Madrid offered a catechesis in the Church of St. James the Elder affirming: «Spain will be Christian and Catholic or it will cease to exist as such. In other words, if it loses its roots, not only will it cease to be Catholic Christian, but it will cease to be Spain.»

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