Pope calls Spaniards to return to God

November 15, 2010


Pope Benedict uses incense during Mass in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Nov. 6.


BARCELONA, SPAIN – Pope Benedict warned Spaniards that human dignity is threatened because of a belief that God is the enemy of human freedom.

During a two-day journey to a once-staunchly Catholic Spain, the pope sought to bolster and renew people's faith in God and convince an increasingly secular society that the Church wants dialogue, not confrontation.

The pope's Nov. 6-7 visit brought him first to one of Catholicism's most popular and ancient pilgrimage sites, Santiago de Compostela, and then Barcelona, where he consecrated the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia.

During an outdoor Mass celebrated in front of the 12th-century cathedral of Santiago de Compostela Nov. 6, the pope said when societies and governments are no longer at the loving service of all people, then arrogance and exploitation risk snuffing out true human development and fulfillment.

Only by loving and serving others like Jesus did, even with the simplest of gestures, will humanity regain a sense of happiness and hope, he said.

About 6,000 people filled the tiny square to capacity and 200,000 more were present in the small city, lining the streets and squares, according to local authorities. The cathedral bells tolled and pilgrims cheered "Viva el papa!"

For the past century, a growing belief has taken hold of Europe suggesting that God is an "antagonist and enemy" of human freedom, he said in his homily.

As a result, he said, human dignity is threatened because it has been stripped of its "essential values and riches" and "the weakest and poorest" in the world are marginalized and left to die.

Even Jesus knew that when the rulers of nations no longer serve the best interests of others, "there arise forms of arrogance and exploitation that leave no room for an authentic integral human promotion," the pope said.

During the Nov. 7 Mass in Barcelona in which he anointed the altar of the church dedicated to the Holy Family of Nazareth, he said Christians must resist every attack on human life and promote the natural institution of the family.

Under the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who came to power in 2004, Spain has relaxed its divorce laws, eased restrictions on abortion, legalized same-sex marriage and allowed gay couples to adopt.

In his homily, the pope praised the technical, social and cultural progress made over the years. However, he said, a country must also advance morally.

He asked that courts, legislatures and society respect the sacred life of the child from the moment of conception.

More than 6,000 people filled the church, which the pope elevated to a minor basilica during the Mass. Another 50,000 people followed the event outside on 33 jumbo screens that dotted the surrounding streets and squares.

A "kiss-in" protest of about 200 people happened along the pope motorcade route, as gay rights' advocates kissed as the vehicle passed. At least 200,000 people lined the streets of the city to see the pope, according to city authorities.

The church, begun in 1882 and expected to be finished by 2026, is the masterpiece of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, a Catholic whose beatification cause is under way.