King Invites Benedict XVI to Visit Spain

In July 2006, for the World Meeting of Families

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CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, SEPT. 5, 2005 ( King Juan Carlos of Spain invited Benedict XVI to visit his country, during the first audience the Pope granted him and his wife, Queen Sofia.

The private audience, on which the Holy See gave no further details, took place today in the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, where Benedict XVI Rome is staying until the end of the summer.

«I have invited the Pope to come to Spain, on the occasion of the World Meeting of Families in Valencia,» said King Juan Carlos to journalists gathered in the small town some 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Rome.

Archbishop Agustín García-Gasco of Valencia revealed in May that the Meeting of Families will be held in that archdiocese from July 4-9, 2006. It was called by Pope John Paul II and confirmed by Benedict XVI in a letter dated May 17 to the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

The monarchs transmitted to Benedict XVI the invitation to visit Spain made by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.

The Spanish monarchs were in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo for about a half-hour. The monarchs had already greeted the new Pope briefly on the occasion of the solemn inauguration of his pontificate on April 24.

«Sense of humor»

King Juan Carlos said that it «was an honor to have seen» the Holy Father, as he «is very kind, very open and very sharp.»

Sofia, who was dressed in white, a privilege of Spanish queens, said that Benedict XVI is «more reserved» than John Paul II, «but with a sense of humor.»

In the forthcoming weeks Benedict XVI will receive other members of royal families and heads of state. King Abdallah II of Jordan is expected to visit the Pope next week.

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