November 8, 2010

VATICAN CITY, 6 NOV 2010 (VIS) - On his arrival at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the Pope entered the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament before going on to greet faithful from the Portico de la Gloria, a granite construction dating from the twelfth century the columns of which are decorated with the figures of Christ, the Apostles, saints, prophets, angels, symbolic creatures and episodes from the Bible.

The Holy Father then exited the cathedral by the Royal Door and re-entered by the Holy Door. After a moment of prayer before the tomb of St. James he gave the traditional embrace to the statue of the Apostle.

Then, following a brief greeting by Archbishop Julian Barrio Barrio of Santiago de Compostela, the Pope pronounced his address.

“To go on pilgrimage”, he said, “is not simply to visit a place to admire its treasures of nature, art or history. To go on pilgrimage really means to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where He has revealed Himself, where His grace has shone with particular splendour and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe”.

“In this Holy Year of Compostela, I too, as the Successor of Peter, wished to come in pilgrimage to the ‘House of St. James’, as it prepares to celebrate the eight-hundredth anniversary of its consecration. I have come to confirm your faith, to stir up your hope and to entrust to the Apostle’s intercession your aspirations, struggles and labours in the service of the Gospel. As I embraced the venerable statue of the saint, I also prayed for all the children of the Church, which has her origin in the mystery of the communion that is God”.

Benedict XVI explained how the “Church is this embrace of God, in which men and women learn also to embrace their brothers and sisters and to discover in them the divine image and likeness which constitutes the deepest truth of their existence, and which is the origin of genuine freedom.

“Truth and freedom are closely and necessarily related”, he added. “Honestly seeking and aspiring to truth is the condition of authentic freedom. One cannot live without the other. The Church, which desires to serve unreservedly the human person and his dignity, stands at the service of both truth and freedom. She cannot renounce either, because what is at stake is man himself, because she is moved by love for man, ‘the only creature on earth which God has wanted for its own sake’, and because without this aspiration for truth, justice and freedom, man would lose his very self.

The Pope continued: “From Compostela, the spiritual heart of Galicia and at the same time a school of unbounded universality, allow me to exhort all the faithful of this beloved archdiocese, and those of the Church in Spain, to live their lives enlightened by the truth of Christ, confessing the faith with joy, consistency and simplicity, at home, at work and in their commitment as citizens.

“May the joy of knowing that you are God’s beloved children bring you to an ever deeper love for the Church and to co-operate with her in her work of leading all men and women to Christ”, the Holy Father told the faithful. “Pray to the Lord of the harvest that many young people will devote themselves to this mission in the priestly ministry and in the consecrated life. Today, it is as worthwhile as ever to dedicate one’s whole life to the proclamation of the newness of the Gospel.

“I cannot conclude without first expressing my appreciation and gratitude to the Catholics of Spain for the generosity with which they support so many institutions of charity and of human development. Continue to maintain these works which benefit society as a whole, and whose effectiveness has been shown in a special way in the present economic crisis, as well as when grave natural disasters have affected certain countries”.

Speaking then in Galician, Pope Benedict asked “Almighty God to grant all of you the boldness which St. James showed in bearing witness to the Risen Christ. In this way, may you remain faithful in the ways of holiness and spend yourselves for the glory of God and the good of our brothers and sisters in greatest need”.

Having concluded his remarks the Pope placed some incense in the “botafumeiro”, the cathedral’s thurible, which is used during important ceremonies and is famous for its enormous size. Operated by eight men known as ” tiraboleiros”, it swings back and forth as the hymn of the Apostle James is sung and always arouses the admiration of pilgrims. The current botafumeiro is made of gilded brass, it is 1.1 metres high and weighs 50 kilograms. It was constructed in Santiago in the middle of last century.

After the ceremony, the Pope went to the archbishopric where he had lunch with Spanish cardinals, the executive committee of the Spanish Episcopal Conference and members of his entourage.


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