Papal Visit to Barcelona: This Sunday!!!

This is my last blog post before the Papal Visit to Barcelona this Sunday. For those of you who are interested, I will be live-tweeting EWTN’s televised coverage this Sunday morning beginning at 4:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Yes, this sounds very early, but keep in mind that here in the U.S. we are going to be setting our clocks back one hour on Saturday night before we go to bed, so we will be getting an extra hour’s sleep.

In any case, if you wish to follow my live tweets on Sunday morning, or just check in later and see what I thought of the event, bookmark my Twitter Profile at http://twitter.com/wbdnewton

If you wish to watch the Papal Mass live, EWTN will be providing live coverage on their cable channel, or you can watch online on their website by following this link.

Now, some bullet points on details to look out for this Sunday!

– Below is the official poster from the Archdiocese for the Papal Visit; banners imprinted with this image have been put on display on lightposts, in shop windows, on churches, etc. all over Barcelona. The sign reads, in Catalan, “With the Pope at the Sagrada Familia, November 7, 2010”, and in the lower right hand corner is the logo for the event: a silhouette of the Sagrada Familia with the arms of the Archdiocese superimposed:

– A lot of work is going to be continuing inside the Sagrada Familia until the last moment. Because this is still very much a construction site, there is not going to be a great deal of decoration, of course. Then again, the building itself is quite a decoration! Here are a couple of interior photos taken this week:


– The Pope will arrive at El Prat, Barcelona’s airport, from Santiago de Compostela at about 9:00 pm on Saturday. He will then be taken to the Episcopal Palace across from Barcelona’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia, where he will spend the night. Reports indicate that he did not ask for any special accommodation, food, etc., and that he has been given a very simple room, with a window facing onto an interior courtyard (for security reasons.)

– When the Pope arrives at the Sagrada Familia, he will be meeting with King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain in the museum of the basilica before mass. At this point I am not aware whether this is to be a private chat, or whether it will be televised. However it would stand to reason that Their Majesties will be attending the Papal Mass since it has been announced that they will also be at the airport that evening to see the Pope off back to Rome.

– Speaking of the Catholic monarchs, keep an eye out for what color Queen Sofia will be wearing. Historically, it has always been the prerogative of a Queen of Spain to wear white (rather than black) in the presence of the Pope, if she so chooses; she is one of the few women in the world permitted to do so. Below is a picture of her, for example, at the mass for Pope Benedict XVI’s installation at St. Peter’s. She dressed completely in white and wore the full mantilla and peineta, the large ornamental comb used in Spain to hold up and keep the mantilla in place:

– With the presence of the Pope, the King and Queen, the Prime Minister, the Spanish hierarchy, diplomats, politicians, military officers, celebrities, and so on, in addition to the thousands of ordinary parishioners unaccustomed to tight security measures who received tickets, the task of keeping everyone safe at the basilica is going to be an absolute nightmare. Eleven square blocks around the church are to be closed to traffic with checkpoints. Threats are more likely to come from Moslem extremists – with which Barcelona, sadly, is rather full these days – rather than Basque separatists. There will also be Leftist anti-clerical and anarchist elements that are going to try and disrupt the proceedings, as unfortunately Barcelona has also been the center for that sort of nonsense inside of Spain over the past century and a half.

– The Pope is going to be presented with a giant “mona” in honor of his visit by the Barcelona Trade Academies’ School of Pastry. Catalans take their pastries and their chocolates very, VERY seriously, having had a huge influence from France as a result of their geographic, cultural, and political ties over the years. The “mona” is an uniquely Catalan chocolate confection that is often very elaborate; it is usually given out at Easter, though sometimes also on special occasions. It can appear either in a round, cake shape or can be formed in the shape of some object holding meaning for the recipient.

In this case, four of the pastry chef professors at the academy and two of their senior pupils made a “mona” in the shape of the Nativity Facade of the Sagrada Familia, where the Pope will be reciting the Angelus with the faithful at noon on Sunday. This mona is just about 4 feet high, and weighs about 110 pounds! It will be eaten at the luncheon for the Pope hosted by Cardinal Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, at the Episcopal Palace after the mass:

– Finally, here are some numbers for your consideration:

+ Of the approximately 6,500 people attending the mass, 2,100 will be from the Barcelona Archdiocese’s parishes. Each parish was distributed 10 Papal Mass tickets to divvy up. Each of the other Catalan dioceses, such as Lleida, Vic, and Girona, were given 20 tickets to distribute for parishioners willing to come the distance to Barcelona.

+ There will be approximately 1,100 bishops and priests in attendance inside the Basilica.

+ The choir at the Papal Mass will number 800 singers, including the Orfeó Català (the chorus from the Palau de la Musica, Barcelona’s Carnegie Hall), and the Escolanía from the Abbey of Montserrat, the oldest boys’ choir in Europe.

+ There will be 36,000 outdoor seats provided at the Sagrada Familia for those unable to enter the church. There will also be a cordoned-off standing room only area for 1,000 people close to the entrance.

+ Because the interior of the nave has 52 columns – 52! – some of the seats along the four side aisles inside the basilica will have blocked views. To address this, there will be 45 smaller monitors located throughout the interior of the church so that people can see what is going on. There will be around 25 large screens spread around the exterior of the church, and another 30 giant screens spread throughout Barcelona in city squares, parks, etc., where people can watch the Papal Mass as it unfolds. Many of the basilicas, churches, and chapels of the religious houses in Barcelona will also be hosting large screens for those wanting to follow the mass.

+ There will be nearly 2,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 18 from different Catholic Youth organizations wearing blue jackets emblazoned with the logo designed for the visit, stationed around the site to help out as needed.

I would ask your prayers, gentle reader, that the Papal Visit goes smoothly and, most of all, safely. There are many friends and relations I have spoken to in Barcelona who are worried that someone is going to try something, though let us hope that this is mere speculation. If all comes off well, this will be a very significant moment for the Church in Catalonia, as the Pope consecrates its most famous church building. Visca el Papa!!!

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