.- The Holy Father will make a trip to Spain this year, according to announcements from both sides of the Mediterranean on Wednesday. On Nov. 6 he will be in Santiago de Compostela for the Year of St. James celebrations. Then, on Nov. 7 he will visit Barcelona to bless Antoni Gaudi's famous and unique "Sagrada Familia" Cathedral.
The visit to Santiago de Compostela, the site of St. James' tomb and the destination of thousands who walk the "camino," or path of St. James every year, comes on the 900th anniversary of the construction of the city's cathedral.
Archbishop Julian Barrio Barrio confirmed the announcement in a press conference from the northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. According to the local newspaper "El Correo Gallego," Archbishop Barrio expressed "profound gratitude" for the Pope's decision to visit, because "it will fill us with satisfaction and ... happiness."
The archbishop said that the diocese will make every effort to receive the Pope warmly on his arrival "as a pilgrim of the faith and witness of the risen Christ."
As for the stop in Barcelona, the Holy Father accepted a February invitation from the Archdiocese of Barcelona to preside over the consecration of the one-of-a-kind Church of the Sacred Family, or "Sagrada Familia."
The church has been under construction intermittently since the death of its designing architect, Antoni Gaudi, in 1926. Cardinal Lluis Martinez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona said on Feb. 17 that although it's still unfinished, both sides of the central nave will be covered by November so the church can be blessed.
The Archdiocese of Barcelona confirmed the news of the Pontiff's visit in a press conference this morning in which Cardinal Martinez Sistach expressed his gratitude to the Holy Father.
"The visit of the Holy Father Benedict XVI will confirm our faith, strengthen our hope and propel our charity," said the cardinal. "For us, it will be a true gift from God. His presence and his teachings will enrich our Christian life of fidelity and love of God and the Church."
Architect Antoni Gaudi's cause for beatification was opened in 1999.
Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed plans for the visits from the Holy See's Press Office, although he said no other specific details of the trip are available.
Benedict XVI will also visit Spain in 2011 for World Youth Day in the capital city of Madrid.