Barcelona's Sagrada Familia finally becomes a church

Sat Nov 6, 2010 7:22am EDT
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By Nigel Davies

BARCELONA (Reuters) - For decades tourists have visited the twisting spires of Barcelona's iconic Sagrada Familia church, but 128 years after construction began Catholic faithful will worship there for the first time on Sunday.

Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate Mass to give his official blessing to the church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi, whose sculptural masterpieces dot the city in the region of Catalonia.

The pope consecrates Sagrada Familia during a visit to northern Spain where on Saturday he joins pilgrims at the shrine to St. James, Spain's patron saint, in Santiago de Compostela.

While work is not scheduled to finish for many more years on the intricate and colorful Sagrada Familia, enough has been done to welcome the pontiff, including installing last minute stained-glass windows.

Jordi Bonet Armengol, chief architect of the cathedral and seventh successor to Gaudi, hopes the pope's visit will provide the boost needed to finish the work.

Under instructions from Gaudi, who died in 1926, construction is funded by private donations and visitors' fees.

Protests ranging from gays who are against the Catholic Church's stance on homosexuality, to residents complaining about the disruption and cost of the event are expected to greet the pope when he steps out of Gaudi's masterpiece on Sunday.

But devout Catholics said they were excited about the consecration.   Continued...

<p>A man places a tape around the surroundings of the Sagrada Familia temple in Barcelona November 5, 2010. REUTERS/Albert Gea</p>