“The joy which I feel at presiding this ceremony became all the greater when I learned that this shrine, since its beginnings, has had a special relationship with Saint Joseph. I have been moved above all by Gaudí's confidence when, in the face of many difficulties, filled with trust in divine Providence, he would exclaim, ‘Saint Joseph will finish this church’. So it is significant that it is also being dedicated by a Pope whose baptismal name is Joseph”.
Coming from Tarragona with some 112 overseas Filipino workers in two buses, and with two brother-priests, Fr. Allan Rodriguez and Fr. Elizar Cielo, I had the grace to concelebrate with the Pope, together with hundreds of concelebrating priests. I had witnessed the warm welcome accorded to the Supreme Pontiff by the catalan people and those coming from other Spanish cities. The day before, the Holy Father went to a pilgrimage at Santiago de Compostela and presided there the Holy Eucharist in the afternoon on the occasion of its Jubilee Year.
The Pope’s message in his homily, as usual, has stirred not only the hearts of the Catholic faithful, jubilant with the presence of their spiritual father, but also the consciences of Church critics, rabid even at the thought of getting near the defender of the family, of women’s rights, and of human life from womb to tomb. Though a great part of his homily is dedicated to a reflection on “beauty (which) calls us to freedom and draws us away from selfishness,” what called the attention especially of the media are the Pope’s words on these questions:
“Life has changed greatly and with it enormous progress has been made in the technical, social and cultural spheres. We cannot simply remain content with these advances. Alongside them, there also need to be moral advances, such as in care, protection and assistance to families, inasmuch as the generous and indissoluble love of a man and a woman is the effective context and foundation of human life in its gestation, birth, growth and natural end. Only where love and faithfulness are present can true freedom come to birth and endure.
For this reason the Church advocates adequate economic and social means so that women may find in the home and at work their full development, that men and women who contract marriage and form a family receive decisive support from the state, that life of children may be defended as sacred and inviolable from the moment of their conception, that the reality of birth be given due respect and receive juridical, social and legislative support. For this reason the Church resists every form of denial of human life and gives its support to everything that would promote the natural order in the sphere of the institution of the family.”
The Pope has spoken right through the heart of Spain – a modern Spain whose heart has somehow forgotten that true human family must be anchored on the “indissoluble love of a man and a woman”, that the authentic promotion of women is their holistic and integral development, and that the genuine protect of life is from birth to death. In this sense, the Pope’s message also strikes through the heart of every human being of good will and of every person who values family and life more than any political ideology.
Reflecting on the significance of consecrating the church, which was later declared a Minor Basilica, the Pope said: “What do we do when we dedicate this church? In the heart of the world, placed before God and mankind, with a humble and joyful act of faith, we raise up this massive material structure, fruit of nature and an immense achievement of human intelligence which gave birth to this work of art. It stands as a visible sign of the invisible God, to whose glory these spires rise like arrows pointing towards absolute light and to the One who is Light, Height and Beauty itself.”
At the heart of a metropolis, a great city like Barcelona, stands majestic “the visible sign of the invisible God”. Every Catholic is also called to stand in the midst of the world to be a living sign of the God of life. “As I contemplate with admiration this sacred space of marvelous beauty, of so much faith-filled history, I ask God that in the land of Catalonia new witnesses of holiness may rise up and flourish, and present to the world the great service that the Church can and must offer to humanity: to be an icon of divine beauty, a burning flame of charity, a path so that the world may believe in the One whom God has sent (cf. Jn 6:29),” the Pope ended.