Pope in Santiago (1): truth and freedom cannot be separated

[BARCELONA] After kissing the relics of St James, the Pope in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela has just finished a speech in which he recalled the proper meaning of pilgrimage, and spoke of the inseparability of freedom and truth.

Both speak to concerns of the Spanish Church. The popularity of the Camino de Santiago threatens to secularize it. And Spanish liberalism and anticlericalism have long defined freedom as throwing off the dogmas of the Church.


To go on pilgrimage, the Pope said, is not simply to admire treasures of art and history but "to step out of ourselves in order to encounter God where he has revealed himself, where his grace has shone with particular splendour and produced rich fruits of conversion and holiness among those who believe."

Through faith, he said, "we are embraced by God, transformed by his love". The Church, he said, "is this embrace of God, in which men and women learn also to embrace their borthes and sisters and to discover in them the divine image and likeness which constitutes the deepest truth of their existence, and which is the origin of genuine freedom".

He then linked freedom to truth, which he said were "closely and necessarily related".

"Honestly seeking and aspiring to truth is the condition of authentic freedom," he said. "One cannot live without the other." The Church cannot renounce either, he added, quoting Gaudium et Spes, because she is "moved by love for man, 'the only creature on earth which God has wanted for his own sake'."

He went on to describe Compostela as "a school of unbounded universality", adding yet another tribute to the many which Santiago currently enjoys.

He ended by thanking Catholics for the generosity of their support for "so many institutions of charity and of human development" -- before adding a non-too-subtle reminder to secular Spain of the contribution the Church makes to civil society, especially through its social arm Caritas.

"Continue to maintain these works which benefit society as a whole," he said, "and whose effectiveness has been shown in a special way in the present economic crisis".

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