.- On Monday King Juan Carlos I of Spain invited Pope Benedict to visit his country to participate in the World Meeting of Families, which will be held in 2006 in Valencia. The Spanish monarchs, who met in audience with the Pontiff at Castel Gandolfo, characterized it as “relaxed and cordial” and said they found Pope Benedict XVI to be “open, sympathetic, lively and affectionate.” “He is more reserved than the former Pope, but he has a great sense of humor,” Queen Sofia commented after the audience. The 30-minute meeting began with the Pope greeting the monarchs, accompanied by Archbishop James Harvey, Prefect of the Papal Household, at the doors of the Library of the Pontifical Palace. The Spanish royal couple spoke with the Pope in Italian, although Queen Sofia told reporters she briefly addressed him in German as well.
The conversation at one point turned to WYD in Cologne, at which the Pontiff said the presence of a large delegation from Spain “was much noted.” “You can tell who the Spanish are right away,” the Pope joked.
“It was a wonderful visit, in which we found the Pope to be open and sympathetic,” the royal couple said.
Although this was their first official visit with him as Pope, the Spanish monarchs were in attendance at Benedict XVI’s inaugural Mass on April 24.