On Sunday, the Pope Celebrates the First Mass of Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Sagrada Familia Church, BarcelonaA major Barcelona tourist attraction, Sagrada Familia has been in the works for the past 128 years. Although technically a church, it will only host its first Catholic worship ceremony tomorrow, November 7th, 2010. Its unique design featuring the twisting spires born from the brilliant mind of Antoni Gaudi has been an icon for the city of Barcelona for decades, but this Sunday Sagrada Familia becomes a genuine place of worship with the first ever Mass celebrated here.

As it is such an important event, the first Mass of Sagrada Familia will be celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI who will then give his official blessing to the church. The consecration of Sagrada Familia is part of a longer visit of the Pope in northern Spain. On the same day as the Sagrada Familia Mass, the Pope will join pilgrims at the shrine to St. James, Spain’s patron saint, in Santiago de Compostela.

The colorful and intricate construction of Sagrada Familia is still not finished, with work being schedule for many more years to come, the current state of the church is enough to welcome the pontiff and accomodate a last minute stained-glass window.

The current chief architect handling the complex design, Jordi Bonet Armengol, is the seventh successor to Gaudi and stated to Reuters he hopes the pope’s visit will provide the boost needed to finish the construction. Following Gaudi’s (died 1926) instructions to the letter, the work is funded by private donations and visitors’ fees.

Although protests from gays and people worried about how much of a disruption and cost the event entails are expected, devout Catholics said they were excited about the consecration.

“There are all kinds of protests but we live in a democracy and should let believers enjoy this,” said Petita Martin, 68, who was disappointed she would not be able to attend the Mass, but planned to greet the pope along the route of his procession on Sunday.
“Sagrada Familia is a jewel and great propaganda for Barcelona,” she said.

From a tourist’s point of view, the ceremony is of ultimate importance. Sagrada Familia, although not completed, is finally taking its role as a place of worship, drawing more attention to Barcelona and Spain. From a business point of view, the event is also welcome, as pilgrims from neighboring countries will want to come see the Pope, the large mass of tourists taking Barcelona over will need to pay for accommodation, meals and reminders of their special trip to Sagrada Familia for this one in a lifetime event. Moreover, rekindling traveler’s taste for architectural and religious Barcelona attractions is always great for Spain, a country rich in history, unique building designs and Catholic heritage.