By Carmen Elena Villa
VATICAN CITY, OCT. 29, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is eager to embark on his trip next weekend to Spain, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters today.
The Jesuit priest intervened in a briefing at the Vatican press office to explain the details of the Pope’s trip to Santiago de Compostela and to Barcelona on Nov. 6-7.
According to Father Lombardi, this is the Pontiff’s first visit ever to Santiago de Compostela and to Barcelona. The priest explained that in the past, before Benedict XVI was Pope, he had only passed through Barcelona to change planes.
The Spanish Royal Family, Father Lombardi continued, “is very committed” to this trip. The Pope will meet the Princes of Asturias, Felipe and Letizia, in Santiago de Compostela on Saturday, Nov. 6, after the welcome ceremony in the city’s airport.
The meeting with the head of the Spanish government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in Barcelona’s El Prat airport will be brief because of the reduced duration of the trip. Father Lombardi said that in August 2010, when the Hoy Father returns to Spain for World Youth Day, there will be an occasion for longer protocol meetings.
The Vatican spokesman confirmed that in Santiago de Compostela the Pontiff will also greet in Mariano Rajoy, who is a member of the conservative People’s Party and the leader of the opposition in the Spanish Parliament.
As regards the Church of the Holy Family, which Benedict XVI will official designate as a basilica on Nov. 7, Father Lombardi pointed out that it is “full of liturgical symbols.”
The Jesuit reminded journalists that the Holy Family (also known by its Spanish name, Sagrada Familia) is not the cathedral of Barcelona. The cathedral of the city is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, which was built between the 13th and 15th centuries and located in the center of the city.
With regard to the figure of Antoni Gaudí, whose cause of canonization is under way, which has sparked controversies in some realms, Father Lombardi said he was an “exemplary Christian.”
“The cause goes ahead in the Congregation for Saints’ Causes,” which is analyzing it “with objectivity,” he said. The purpose of the consecration of the church by the Pope “is not to promote Gaudí’s cause,” he stressed.
Save for any changes to Benedict XVI’s agenda, the Pope will visit Spain three times in less than four years, and the last two trips will be made within 10 months of each other.
The Pontiff’s first trip to the nation was in 2006 for the 5th World Meeting of Families in Valencia; the second will be Nov. 6-7 to Santiago de Compostela and Barcelona, and the third trip will take place next August for World Youth Day in Madrid.
Why this special attention to Spain? This was one of the questions posed by ZENIT during the meeting with journalists. It is “not that Spain is lucky,” answered the Holy See spokesman. “There are occasions that call for a response of frequent trips.”
Is the Pope particularly concerned about the crisis of faith the country is experiencing, ZENIT asked. Father Lombardi answered that “the problems are also in other countries, for example in the United Kingdom.”
“I don’t feel like making long speeches,” he added. “It seems to me there are occasions and places that vie for favor, and in this case it’s Spain’s turn.”