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Pope to open Sagrada Familia

Benedict to inaugurate Barcelona landmark in November

03 March, 13:05
Pope to open Sagrada Familia (ANSA) - Vatican City, March 3 - Pope Benedict XVI will open Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia cathedral in November, paying tribute to its creator Antoni Gaudi'.

Unveiling the modernist landmark on November 7, Benedict "will underline the dialogue between faith and art, something which the Pope cares a lot about," Vatican Spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.

The pope will also recall "the great personality" of local architect Gaudi, a profoundly religious artist who has been set on the path to beatification. The inauguration of Gaudi's unfinished masterpiece will come on the second day of the pope's two-day Spanish visit, after he has been to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela on November 6 for its Jubilee year celebration, Father Lombardi said. Gaudi laboured on the convoluted spires of the cathedral for more than 40 years from 1882, struggling with poverty but still producing the vast skeleton of one of the grandest and weirdest works in architectural modernism.

It was left uncompleted when he died after being hit by a tram in 1926 and work on it has been fitful since.

But a recent new project has set a completion date of 2026, while part of it is set to open for worship in September. Gaudi's signature work is one of the icons of Barcelona and one of Spain's biggest tourist attractions.

Father Lombardi said the pope would return to Spain for next year's World Youth Day.

It will be his third visit to the Catholic country since he travelled to Valencia in 2006, meeting Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for the first time.

Relations with Spain's liberal government have been strained and the timing of the visits has been seen as support for campaigns by Spanish Catholics against government moves such as the approval of gay marriage and an alleged secularist drift seen in a recent court ban on crosses in classrooms.

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