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Pope chats with reporters on Spain, secularism, art

November 08, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI contrasted Spain’s history of great saints with the “strong and aggressive secularism” that gave rise to the nation’s blood civil war, in a conversation with reporters during his flight as he began a weekend trip there.

Catholic devotion and secularism have battled in Spain in the past, the Pope observed. “Spain has always been, on the one hand, a country of origin of the faith,” he said, citing the enormous influence of St. Ignatius, St. Teresa, and St. John of the Cross, “who truly renewed Catholicism and molded its modern face.”

“Yet it is equally true,” the Pontiff continued, “that Spain also saw the birth of laicism, of anticlericalism, a strong and aggressive secularism such as that of the 1930s. And this dispute, this clash between faith and modernity, both very lively, is coming about again in Spain today.”

In answer to an earlier question from a reporter, about his insistence that he was traveling as a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Pope Benedict said that he saw a pilgrimage as a reminder of “the instability of this life—of the fact of being on a journey.” He added that Christians benefit from an occasional change in routine: “Sometimes it is necessary to escape from daily routine, from the world of practicality and utility, to undertake a journey towards transcendence.”

The traditional pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela has a special significance, the Pontiff continued, because of centuries the faithful made the trip from all across Europe, and their interactions along the route became an important part of the growth in European civilization: “It is clear that the routes of Santiago are an element in the formation of the spiritual unity of the European continent.”

Questioned about the second major event on his weekend visit, the consecration of the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, the Pope praised the architect Antonio Gaudi for his approach, which combined a traditional Catholic piety with a dramatically new architectural style. “And this courage to remain within tradition, but with a creativity that renews tradition and shows the unity and progress of history, is a beautiful thing,” the Pope said.

Moreover, a church dedicated to the Sagrada Familia—the Holy Family—has a particularly important message for the early 21st century, the Pope said, “because the problem of the family-- the renewal of the family as society's fundamental cell-- is the great theme showing us the way to build society.”

When another reporter observed that Pope Benedict has laid heavy stress on the relationship between faith and art, the Pontiff emphatically agreed. He hopes to encourage art in the Christian tradition, the Pope said. “An art which loses its transcendent roots no longer tends towards God, it is a truncated art without a living root.”


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