Madrid cardinal calls Zapatero’s no-show at papal Mass “minor issue” compared to massive turnout of the faithful

.- Speaking on the Spanish radio network COPE-which is affiliated with the Bishops’ Conference of Spain-Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela expressed his satisfaction with the success of the World Meeting of Families which concluded on Sunday with a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.

The cardinal archbishop of Madrid called Spanish President Jose Luis Zapatero’s refusal to attend the papal Mass a “minor issue,” preferring instead to focus on the massive turnout of faithful who expressed their support for the Pope and the Church’s teaching that “the family is born of marriage.”

Cardinal Rouco said he was pleased with the response of Catholics in Spain to the call of the Pope.  “I had no doubt about it, even though we would be in Valencia in the summer, in the second week of July, no matter how much we sweated.  Nothing was going to stop it,” he said.

The cardinal noted that the turn-out and participation in the event far surpassed organizers’ expectations, and that, “young people were much more present that many had said, and they came with a natural spontaneity and positive attitude: this is our way of life, we have chosen to live in a way that doesn’t hurt anybody and inspires all.”

Asked about President Zapatero’s decision not to attend the papal Mass or the Pope’s departure ceremony, Cardinal Rouco called it a, “minor issue that is not important.  The most important thing is that the Pope met with one million people, that half the world heard a message about the family and that we are willing to proclaim it to society and to the whole world.”

Cardinal Rouco was also asked about the Pope’s meeting with the bishops of Spain.  “He encouraged us to keep doing what we are doing,” the cardinal said. “There are always those who try to point out differences between the bishops of a certain country and the Pope and that is useless because our communion with him is total.  We always learn from him, and it cannot be said that the Pope is not with us or is not encouraging us to continue being witnesses to the gospel here in Spain,” he stated.

Cardinal Rouco also underscored the great moral value of Spain’s cultural and spiritual heritage. “We should not destroy that which has united us for so many centuries,” he stated.  “For the Church, this noble nation of Spain is one of the historical places where her roots are deepest,” the cardinal said.

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