Benedict XVI Arrives In Spain As a Pilgrim

Urges Nation to Build Future on Freedom, Justice

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SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain, NOV. 6, 2010 ( Benedict XVI embarked on his brief two-day visit to Spain this weekend with an appeal to the country to build its present and future on the foundations of freedom, justice, and the «authentic truth» of the person.

The Pope arrived today to the International Airport of Santiago de Compostela, where he was greeted by, among others, the prince of Asturias, Felipe, son of King Juan Carlos of Spain and Queen Sophía; and the princess of Asturias, the prince’s wife, Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano.

In his address at the welcoming ceremony, the Holy Father encouraged both 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 defenseless.»

He also made an appeal for «a Spain and a Europe concerned not only with people’s material needs but also with their moral and social, spiritual and religious needs,» noting that these are the «genuine requirements of our common humanity.»
The Holy Father made reference to Spain’s past, which he said has «given the world a constellation of great saints, founders and poets, like Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Jesus, John of the Cross, Francis Xavier, among many others.»


Benedict XVI said he is visiting Santiago de Compostela «as a pilgrim» and to confirm the faithful in their faith.

«In his deepest being,» the Pope reflected, «man is always on a journey, ever in search of truth. The Church shares this profound human desire and herself sets out, accompanying humanity in its yearning for complete fulfillment.»

The Pontiff said that the Church is also on a journey, which, «through faith, hope and love, leads her to become a transparent sign of Christ for the world. This is her mission and her path: to be among men and women an ever greater presence of Christ.»

«For this reason, I too have journeyed here, to confirm my brothers and sisters in the faith,» he affirmed.

Benedict XVI’s visit takes place on the occasion of the 2010 «Jacobeo» Holy Year, which is under way through to the end of the year. The feast day of the Apostle James the Greater (in Spanish, Santiago) is July 25, and a holy year is celebrated each year that the feast falls on a Sunday, which happens 14 times every century.

The apostle is the patron of Spain, and tradition holds that his tomb is located in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Since the 10th and 11th centuries, the cathedral has been the destination of the historic and popular pilgrimage route El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (The Way of St. James).

«I wish to join the great host of men and women who down the centuries have come to Compostela from every corner of this peninsula, from throughout Europe and indeed the whole world, in order to kneel at the feet of St. James and be transformed by the witness of his faith,» Benedict XVI stated.

Sagrada Familia

Benedict XVI will travel in the evening to Barcelona, and on Sunday he will consecrate the Church of the Holy Family (Sagrada Familia), and proclaim it a basilica.

The Pope said upon his arrival to Spain that he will travel to Barcelona «as a herald and witness of the Gospel […] in order to nourish the faith of its welcoming and dynamic people.»

He described the faith of Barcelona as «a faith sown already at the dawn of Christianity, one which blossomed and grew in the warmth of countless examples of holiness, giving rise to countless institutions of beneficence, culture and education.»

It is a faith, he continued, «which inspired the gifted architect Antoni Gaudí to undertake in that city, with the fervor and cooperation of many people, that marvel which is the church of the Sagrada Familia. It will fall happily to me to dedicate that church, which reflects all the grandeur of the human spirit in its openness to God.»

Benedict XVI added a greeting in Galician, the local dialect of the region, in which he reiterated his «affection and closeness to the beloved sons and daughters of Galicia, Catalonia and the other peoples of Spain.»

«In commending my stay among you to the intercession of the Apostle St. James, I ask God to bestow his blessings on all of you,» he added.

Path of dialogue

Prince Felipe, who greeted Benedict XVI on behalf of the king and queen of Spain, Juan Carlos I and Sophía, recalled the importance of Pope John Paul II’s visits to the pilgrimage destination, which he visited first in 1982, and then again in 1989 when the city hosted World Youth Day.

«Since these dates, there has been a true explosion in the number of pilgrims and travelers that arrive to Compostela,» the prince said. «They come from all parts of Spain, and from the rest of Europe and Latin America. And they are also coming increasingly from the rest of the world, from the rest of the continents, aware of the projection and universal dimension of the ‘Way’.»

The prince said the Way of St. James is also a «‘Way’ of encounter and of dialogue, so linked to our history and culture, which has passed through and united Europe for centuries.»

The prince also expressed Spain’s commitment to work with Benedict XVI for «peace, liberty and the dignity of the human person.»

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