Following Pope Benedict XVI’s ceremonious arrival at the Valencia airport and a brief stop to pray at the site of the victims of Monday’s Metro disaster, the Holy Father arrived at Valencia’s Cathedral to greet the bishops, religious, and clergy gathered there. He also delivered a letter to the episcopate of Spain.  

The Holy Father began his letter by stating his intent in Valencia to renew the vision of the family as, “a sanctuary of love, life, and faith.”

In his letter, the Holy Father gave thanks to God for bringing him to Valencia for the Fifth World Meeting of Families and then thanked all those involved in making the celebration happen.  “I am especially appreciative,” the Holy Father wrote, “of the efforts of the Archbishop of Valencia and his Auxiliary Bishops to make this event, so significant for the entire Church, bear its desired fruit and give new impulse to the family as a sanctuary of love, life and faith.”

The Pope praised what he called the “family-like setting” which he had already witnessed among the organizers and participants of the meeting.  The love witnessed among those involved in the meeting, the Holy Father pointed out, is a sign of the success of the Meeting and an incentive to all to carry the results of the gathering back to their own Dioceses, “making its possible for every home to receive the Gospel message, which confirms and enriches love and thus helps it to overcome whatever difficulties it may encounter.”

Referencing Spain in particular, Pope Benedict said, “you know that I follow closely and with much interest the life of the Church in your country, a country with deep Christian roots, one which has greatly contributed and must still contribute to the proclamation and spread of the faith to many other parts of the world. Keep alive and vigorous this spirit, which has accompanied the life of Spaniards throughout their history, so that it will help nourish and vitalize the soul of your people.”

Benedict encouraged the Spanish bishops to continue their work of evangelization in the face of the, “rapid secularization,” which exists in their country. “Acting as if (God) did not exist or relegating faith to the purely private sphere undermines the truth about man and compromises the future of culture and society. On the contrary, lifting one’s gaze to the living God, the guarantor of our freedom and of truth, is a premise for arriving at a new humanity.”

“Nowadays, in a special way the world needs people capable of proclaiming and bearing witness to God who is love, and consequently the one light which in the end, illumines the darkness of the world and gives us strength to live and work (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 39).”

“In times and situations of difficulty, recall those words of the Letter to the Hebrews, ‘let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith, who, for the sake of the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, disregarding the shame ... so that you may not grow weary or lose heart (12:1-3).’ Proclaim that Jesus is ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God(Mt 16:16),’ ‘the one who has the words of eternal life(cf. Jn 6:68),’ and you will not tire of giving reason for your hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15), the Pope encouraged.”

The Holy Father praised the work of the bishops in proclaiming the Gospel and guiding their people through the many different aspects arising in their culture.  He also recognized the importance of their making the Eucharist central in their plan of evanelization.  Quoting the Homily he gave in Marienfeld, during last year’s World Youth Day, the Holy Father said that, “Certainly in the Eucharist there takes place, ‘the central act of transformation capable of truly renewing the world.’”

“Brothers in the Episcopate,” the Benedict concluded, “I exhort you earnestly to preserve and increase your fraternal communion, as a witness and model of the ecclesial communion which should reign in all the faithful people entrusted to your care. I pray for you, and I pray for Spain. I ask you to pray for me and for the whole Church. I invoke the Most Holy Virgin Mary, so greatly venerated in your land, asking that she protect and accompany you in your pastoral ministry.”