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Echoes from Benedict XVI’s visit to Barcelona

29/11/2010: Spain

For many summers students from Barcelona’s Obra Benéfico Social del Niño Dios” (Charitable Social Work of the Child Jesus) have been spending several days in Llinars del Vallès at camping programs run by Marists. On Sunday November 7th, Marist representatives attended Pope Benedict’s visit to this Center for social work, where we witnessed his awesome gesture of coming face to face with what for us is such an exciting place, this “Obra Benéfico Social del Niño Dios.”Toward five in the afternoon Albert Terrats and Brothers Pedro Castanyé, Edu Olivé and I were well on our way to the Centers’s school, located on Maragall Avenue in Barcelona. We had been invited by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts who direct this work and are so appreciative of the Brothers, especially the Sisters who have been more closely associated with the work of the summer camps, like Pilar, Rosario, Manuela and Estela.We go through all the security checks, presenting our IDs and passes, going through metal detectors... and finally we’re inside the school. The place is packed. We give our warm greetings to the Sisters and some of the group leaders that we know, and it goes without saying, to the boys and girls of “Niño Dios” whom we have loved so dearly year after year. Hugs , big hugs and kisses... in the way they are accustomed to greeting us.We take our place a bit away from where the Holy Father will be sitting. We’ll see everything from a distance except for the time he’ll offer a prayer – we’ll be barely 2 meters from him. After an hour’s wait, about 5 p.m., toward the back, hushed tones, cameras flashing, television cameras focusing, Cardinals, security personnel entering. Benedict XVI is here !The first thing the Pope does is greet the boys and girls and Sisters, a multitude of them, thrilled to see him. The Pope makes his way in our direction to spend a few minutes in prayer. We sense a bit of his spiritual power. He’s two meters from us. Looks serene, at peace, joyful. There’s an emotion-filled silence. As he’s walks towards his seat, he encounters a boy in a wheelchair, takes a minute to be with him and exchange a few words. The ceremony continues; There are talks, among others one by the Archbishop of Barcelona, who thanks the Pope for his visit. And then by two children, Antonio and María del Mar. In their openhearted and plainspoken way they address the Pope to thank him for his presence in their midst and tell him that they love him very much. It’s one of the highlights of the gathering.A children’s chorale from “Niño Dios” sings a song to the Pope and deeply moved, he applauds. And at the end, words of the Pope about the families and children at the “Niño Dios” Center. A plain yet exquisite text, very down-to-earth and sensitive to the situation. The part I liked most was when he asked the children to pray for him so he could fulfill the mission that has been entrusted to him. There have been stirring moments. When he greets the boys and girls and kisses them on their forehead, when he smiles at them, applauds, walks toward them and says a few words. In the midst of the gathering some of the children burst out with one of their typical shouts, breaking protocol and grounding us in the moment. Someone yells out, Viva el Papa! This brings applause, lots of applause. The whole experience has been very touching. I have to admit that I’ve enjoyed this more than I expected. Allow me to transcribe some of the words from the speech that the Pope addressed to all of us who were at “Niño Dios”:...It’s a joy for me to be able to be with all of you who make up this more-than-a-century- old “Obra Benéfico Social del Niño Dios.” I thank Cardinal Lluís Martínez Sistach, Archbishop of Barcelona, Sister Rosario, Superior of the community, Antonio y Maria del Mar who have spoken on everyone’s behalf , as well as those who have sung so beautifully, for the very warm welcome that you have extended to me…. Dear children and young people, I say goodbye to you giving thanks to God for your lives, so precious in His eyes, and assuring you that you occupy a very special place in the Pope’s heart. I pray for you every day and I ask you to help me with your prayers to faithfully fulfill the mission that Christ has entrusted to me. I always remember to pray for those who serve people who are suffering, working tirelessly so that people with special needs can occupy their just place in society and not be marginalized due to their limitations....___________Br. Vyns Medina

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