The Impact of Benedict XVI's Visit to Spain

Interview With Director of Weekly Newspaper Cataluna Cristiana

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BARCELONA, Spain, NOV. 8, 2010 ( Benedict XVI has had a great impact during his two-day visit to Spain, says Father Jaume Aymar, but now we must reflect on his message more profoundly.

The director of Radio Estel and of the weekly newspaper Cataluna Cristiana spoke with ZENIT about the Pope’s visit, which ended Sunday.
He noted the Pontiff’s message including the invitation to overcome the split between human conscience and Christian conscience, the need for advances in medicine to respect human life and dignity, and the contribution of the faith to a more fitting and promising society.
Father Aymar pointed out that this visit has shown for the first time the interior of the church of the Sagrada Familia and has sparked greater general interest in the faith.
ZENIT: What global evaluation do you make of the Pope’s visit to Barcelona?
Father Aymar: My evaluation is very positive. In the first place because it’s an historic event for the Pope to visit us. The last visit was 28 years ago, and this is almost a generation ago. It’s something unusual.
Then, very important for me was the dedication of the Church of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) because it is a church that those of us who were born in Barcelona have seen grow day by day. To see the church covered and dedicated by the Holy Father is the fulfillment of a dream.
Also very important was the visit to the “Obra Benefico-Social Nen Deu” (social charity God-Child), because it was another setting that for me was eloquent and dearly loved.
The Pope, if I’m allowed the expression, as a grandfather who went to visit his grandchildren on Sunday afternoon, met with handicapped children, many of them from poor families. It’s a very graphic way of saying: I am with you, the Pope is with you.
ZENIT: In your opinion, what were the most significant moments of this visit?
Father Aymar: A very emotive moment for me was the Pope’s entrance in the Sagrada Familia. Those who were close to him have told us that the Pope was really moved, because that forest of palms which is the interior of the Sagrada Familia is really overwhelming.
Then the moment when he handed the Papal Bull in virtue of which the church was declared a basilica. One could see the joy of the [archbishop of Barcelona] Cardinal Martinez Sistach when he showed it to the faithful and when he read it.
Also lovely was the Pope’s knowing look shared with the women religious of the “Obra Benefico-Social Nen Deu” and the gestures of tenderness to the persons admitted there.
ZENIT: What do you think were his principal messages?
Father Aymar: Interesting I think was what the Pope said in the homily, that “one of the most important tasks today is to overcome the split between human conscience and Christian conscience, between existence in this temporal world and openness to an eternal life, between the beauty of things and God as Beauty.”
It is a vision that does not have two societies, God’s and men’s, but which is one human society that must be open to the transcendent.
Also in the meeting with the handicapped he said that it was imperative that the new technological developments in the medical field never be used in detriment to respect for human life and dignity.
When he took his leave in the airport, he made a good synthesis of his visit, saying that the Sagrada Familia and social work are as two symbols in today’s Barcelona of the fecundity of that same faith that contributes to create a society more fitting of the human being.
And that final note, when he said that beauty, sanctity and love of God lead the human being to live in the world with hope.
ZENIT: Specifically, what impact do you think this visit is having and will have on Barcelona and the world?
Father Aymar: I think that for many it was the occasion to discover the church of the Holy Family, beginning by Barcelona’s residents themselves, who have not seen it finished.
It has had scaffolding, and yesterday was the first day that it could be seen, either by being present in its interior or thanks to the television cameras and TV3’s magnificent broadcast.
The Sagrada Familia is already one of the most visited monuments, but since this visit, it will be all the more so.
The visit of a Pope also leads to interest in the faith. This very morning I was in a public radio station and the speaker, who described himself as a non-believer, said to me: “These days I have learned much.”
For non-believers or non-practicing believers, the visit of a Pope can be an occasion to be interested again in the religious and Christian phenomenon.
ZENIT: What is your opinion of the media coverage of the visit?
Father Aymar: I think it was really extraordinary and that Barcelona rose to the circumstances.
In the press center set up in the Maritime Museum of Atarazanas there were journalists from all over the world.
On the part of our media, we are happy about the way the organization was carried out, with the logical difficulties and failures that can occur, but the evaluation is very positive.
There was talk of 150 million spectators: It’s an extraordinary coverage and diffusion.
As director of Cataluna Cristiana, I want to thank La Vanguardia newspaper, which in its Saturday supplement inserted Cataluna Cristiana, with a print-run of 150,000 copies, which is an historic print-run for our weekly.
ZENIT: And the cover of other more external media?
Father Aymar: There was even an effort made to normalize religious language. Ours is a society in which many have marked ignorance of the religious event.
In this sense, for example, the Catalan Media Corporation elaborated a linguistic home page, which included a very interesting glossary of useful religious terms for journalists and communicators.
I think this is very important. It’s been a good service, a document elaborated expressly for this visit, which explains what a miter is, a staff, the treatments.
Reflected also were the attitudes opposed to the Pope’s visit, but the media did so because they exist; we are in a plural society.
However, what is most grave, most worrying is not that, but indifference. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta already said it: The worst evil is indifference.
If someone is opposed to the visit, with his reasons, he can be answered. Those who are worrying are the indifferent or those alien to such a visit.

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