FaithWorld

Medieval Spanish pilgrim’s guide missing from Santiago de Compostela cathedral

(Codex Calixtinus, Santiago de Compostela, Archivo de la Catedral)

 

Spanish police are investigating the disappearance of the Codex Calixtinus, a valuable 12th century manuscript, from the Santiago de Compostela cathedral in northwestern region of Galicia, a spokesman said on Thursday. The manuscript is a collection of sermons and liturgical texts and served as a guide for the historical Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, which dates back to the Middle Ages.

The elaborately illustrated document disappeared from a safe deposit box in the cathedral last week. Its suspected theft, only reported to police on Wednesday, is considered a major loss for Spain’s cultural and religious heritage.

(Codex Calixtinus, Santiago de Compostela, Archivo de la Catedral)

 

Santiago Cathedral is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Greater, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ who according to legend arrived in Spain to preach Christianity. Another version of the story says the remains of St James – Santiago is Spanish for St James – were brought to Spain by two of his followers after he was beheaded in Jerusalem in AD 42.

The tomb was lost or kept secret for centuries until 813 when it was rediscovered by a bishop who was guided to the spot by a star. In the 11th century, work started on the cathedral whose ornate baroque towers, an 18th century addition visible from miles away, guide pilgrims towards their destination.

(Codex Calixtinus, Santiago de Compostela, Archivo de la Catedral)

 

The medieval centre of Santiago teems with hundreds of pilgrims, instantly recognisable by their bulging backpacks, muddy hiking boots and wooden walking sticks adorned with the distinctive scallop shells that symbolise the pilgrimage. Some particularly fervent groups wear brown capes and floppy hats like the ones worn by Saint James in many statues and paintings. They carry banners bearing the apostle’s special sword-shaped red cross and sing religious songs as they walk.

Spanish Catholic priests criticise corporate sponsorships for papal visit

(Advertisements from an electricity company covers scaffolding at one end of the Bernini Colonnade, as a crowd listens to Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican June 14, 2009/Chris Helgren)

A group of 120 Spanish Catholic priests have criticised church leaders for signing up a list of high-profile corporate sponsors for a visit by the Pope in August, saying authorities had given in to temptation. In a rare joint letter, the priests told Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela the sponsorship deals reinforced the impression the church was a privileged institution.

“It’s been necessary to form a pact with the economic and political powers which reinforces the image of the church as a privileged institution, close to power, and the social scandal this implies, especially in the context of the economic crisis,” the priests said in an open letter. Organisers of Pope Benedict’s visit, scheduled for August 18-21 as part of the celebrations of World Youth Day, have mounted a nationwide advertising campaign, backed by well-known multinationals and Spain’s top companies.

Pope puts his stamp on Catholic Church future with new cardinals

consistory 1 (Photo: Pope Benedict leads the consistory in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican November 20, 2010/Tony Gentile)

Pope Benedict installed 24 new Roman Catholic cardinals from around the world on Saturday in his latest batch of appointments that could include his successor as leader of the 1.2 billion member church.

Twenty of the new cardinals are under 80 and thus eligible under church rules to take part in the conclave that chooses a successor after the death or resignation of the current pope.

The new cardinals include Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington D.C., who, as a senior figure in the American capital, will likely play a leading role in the U.S. church’s response to the sexual abuse scandal.

Guestview: Why has Pope Benedict chosen a European strategy?

Pope Benedict will boost the European majority among the men due to elect his successor when he creates 24 new cardinals at the Vatican on Saturday. The nominations are part of a wider strategy by the German-born pope to strengthen Roman Catholicism in Europe. The following is a guest contribution and the views expressed are the authors’ alone. Jean-Marie Guénois is deputy editor-in-chief of the Paris daily Le Figaro and a specialist on religion. The article first appeared in French on his Religioblog.*

pope 1By Jean-Marie Guénois

We always knew that Benedict XVI is a European pope, but lately he’s been proving this more and more clearly. In this phase of his five-year papacy, the the old continent is clearly his priority. For the past two years, the European destinations have taken  precedence over all his travel (France, Czech Republic, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal, United Kingdom). Twelve of his 18 international trips have also been devoted to Europe. As for the visits due next year, they will all be in Europe: Croatia, Spain and Germany (his third visit there as pope). (Photo: Pope Benedict with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero as King Juan Carlos looks on in Barcelona November 7, 2010/Albert Gea)

The choice of these medium-haul flights could be explained, of course, by his age. At 83-1/2, Benedict takes it slow and easy. Must we recall the health of John Paul II at the same age, six months before his death in 2005? But the real explanation for these short-distance, time-saving trips is surely elsewhere. How can we best explain this? It can be done explicitly, through the speeches the pope delivered in those countries. But also implicitly, through the diagnosis bishops bring to Rome on the state of the European churches.

Pope visit costs criticized in austerity-hit Spain

Cost to the taxpayer seems to be the latest target for protesters when Pope Benedict comes to town. After a lively debate about the price the public had to pay for his visit to Britain in September, Spanish protesters have picked up the torch with complaints about the estimated 3.7 million to 5 million euros the state will spend on logistics and security for the pope. And this at a time when Spain is burdened with 20 percent unemployment and is struggling to emerge from recession and austerity measures that have slashed public sector wages.

“I think it’s bad, I mean really bad, to spend so much money on a guy who comes, gives a speech, stays an hour and leaves,” said Pedro Barral Gonzalez, 18, in Santiago de Compostela, the city in northwestern Spain that the pope visited on Saturday.

Spending on papal visits is often controversial, and Spanish spending on the 32-hour visit is dwarfed by other recent trips, but it still drew criticism.

Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia finally becomes a church

sagrada (Photo: The Sagrada Familia church, with chairs outside for the consecration Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on Saturday, 5 Nov 2010/Albert Gea)

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 (Holy Family) 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.

Strong support to outlaw face veils as France prepares to vote ban

France’s plan to ban full face veils, which comes up for a vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, enjoys 82% popular support in the country, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Its neighbours also approve — 71% of those polled in Germany, 62% in Britain and 59% in Spain agreed that there should be laws prohibiting the Muslim veils known as niqabs and burqas in public. burqa 1(Photo: French woman fined for wearing a niqab while driving outside court in Nantes June 28, 2010/Stephane Mahe)

The poll, conducted from April 7 to May 8, did not range further afield, but reports from other countries show support there as well. The lower house of the Belgian parliament has voted for a ban, which should be approved by the Senate after the summer. In the Netherlands, several bills to ban full veils in certain sectors such as schools and public service are in preparation. Switzerland’s justice minister has suggested the cantons there should pass partial bans but make exceptions for visiting Muslim tourists (the wives of rich sheikhs visiting their bankers in Zurich or Geneva?)

The big exception in the Pew poll is the United States, where 65% of those polled disapprove of a ban and only 28% support the idea. The poll did not investigate the reasons for this difference, so we can only assume it has to do with the more widespread acceptance of religion in public life in the U.S. and a more open approach to immigration.

Spanish town council bans Muslim veils in public buildings

Lleida

Lleida, 18 August 2006/Hector Blanco

A Spanish town council has voted to ban the wearing of the face-covering Muslim veil in public buildings, the first authority in the predominantly Catholic country to do so.

The Catalan council of Lleida approved a law prohibiting the use of full veils such as the Afghan burqa or the niqab, which leave only the eyes visible, according to a release on its website (here in Catalan).

The French cabinet approved a bill this month to outlaw the wearing of niqabs and burqas in public, and Belgium’s lower house voted in favour of prohibiting the full veil last month, provoking strong reactions and stoking debate across Europe.

Spanish RC Church to deny communion to pro-abortion pols

abortion-spainThe Spanish Catholic Church will deny communion to members of parliament who have voted in favour of a bill to make abortion more readily available, the spokesman of Spain’s Bishops’ Conference said on Friday.

“This is a warning to Catholics, that they can’t vote in favour of this and that they won’t be able to receive communion unless they ask forgiveness,” Rev. Juan Antonio Martinez Camino told a news conference in Madrid. “They are in an objective state of sin.”

The government-sponsored bill, which passed the first of a series of votes in parliament on Thursday, will allow abortion until the 14th week of pregnancy and, in cases of extreme foetal deformity, at any time in the pregnancy. The bill will also allow girls to obtain abortions from the age of 16 without parental consent, a clause that has generated dissent even within the governing Socialist Party.

Could abortion law backfire on Spain’s Zapatero?

zapateroIn a country like Spain, where a large majority still identify themselves as at least more-or-less Catholic, you’d think the government would shy away from taking on the Roman Catholic Church.  In fact, there are probably few things Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero likes better than a brawl with the bishops.

Lingering anti-clerical sentiment in sectors of Zapatero’s Socialist Party, particularly on its left-most fringes, means the PM has few more effective tools for rallying his voters than the sight of a protest march led by priests and nuns. (Photo: Prime Minister Zapatero, 5 June 2009/Juan Medina)

At a time when unemployment is closing in on 20 percent, Zapatero knows matters economic are not going to provide anything to cheer his supporters. So there was little surprise when the government rolled out a bill to liberalise abortion laws, including a provision to allow 16 year olds to abort without parental consent, in time for the European elections. At present, Spanish law allows abortion only in certain circumstances, such as if the birth poses a psychogical risk to the mother, although in practice it is easily available.