At 9.30 a.m. Saturday, Benedict XVI departed from Rome’s Fiumicino airport bound for the Spanish city of Valencia, where he arrived at 11.30 a.m. The aim of this his first apostolic visit to Spain, and his third trip outside Italy since the beginning of his pontificate, is to preside at the closing ceremony of the Fifth World Meeting of Families which is being held in Valencia on the theme: “Transmission of the Faith within Families.”
On his arrival at Valencia’s Manises airport, the Holy Father was greeted by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain. He then received the greetings of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, prime minister of Spain, and of other civil and religious authorities, including Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia.
In his address, the Pope thanked the archbishop, his auxiliary bishops and the entire archdiocese of Valencia for their “warm welcome to this World Meeting. I know that in these days you are grieving with the families mourning their dear ones who were victims of a tragic accident, and are also close to the injured.”
He then went on: “I wish to set forth the central role that the family based on marriage has for the Church and for society. The family is a unique institution in God’s plan, and the Church cannot fail to proclaim and promote its fundamental importance, so that it can live out its vocation with a constant sense of responsibility and joy.”
Benedict XVI then recalled how “my venerable predecessor, a great friend of Spain, the beloved John Paul II, called this meeting. … In union with all taking part, I will implore from the Lord, through the intercession of our Most Holy Mother and the Apostle St. James, plentiful graces for the families of Spain and of the whole world.”
Having completed his address, the Pope travelled by popemobile to the Jesus underground railway station where he prayed for the 42 victims killed in an accident there last Monday.
He then travelled to the cathedral of Valencia, dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption, where he paused in prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament. Then, in the cathedral’s Chapel of the Holy Chalice, he placed his signature on the Book of Honor, and on a Letter addressed to all Spanish bishops which he consigned to the president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Bilbao.
According to local tradition the Holy Chalice, the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper, was taken by the Apostle Peter to Rome where it remained in the custody of the Popes until the time of Pope Sixtus II. Shortly before his martyrdom during the persecution of the Emperor Valerian, that Pontiff ordered the Deacon Lawrence to hide it. Lawrence managed to transfer the Grail to his homeland of Huesca in northeastern Spain before his own martyrdom. These events took place around the years 258 – 261. The Chalice remained in Huesca until the Muslim invasion 450 years later. In the year 712, in the face of the advancing Muslim armies, the bishop of Huesca took the Chalice to the monastery of “San Juan de la Pena.” Centuries later in 1437, King Alfonso V the Magnanimous donated it to the cathedral of Valencia. In 1982, John Paul II used the Holy Chalice at a eucharistic celebration during which he ordered the single largest number of priests of his pontificate.
The Pope then moved on to the basilica of the “Virgen de los Desamparados.” Built between 1652 and 1667, it was there that, in 1961, Blessed Pope John XXIII proclaimed the “Virgen de los Desamparados” as patroness of the entire region of Valencia. In the basilica, Benedict XVI again prayed for the dead and injured of the recent accident on the city’s underground railway, accompanied by members of the victims’ families.
“Before the ‘Virgen de los Desamparados’,” said the Holy Father, “we ask her to console all the families suffering the consequences of the accident, which has submerged the children of this city in pain and mourning. With our hearts open to divine mercy, let us together pray the Our Father in memory of those who are now in the presence of God.”
Following the brief ceremony, the Pope came out of the basilica into the “Plaza de la Virgen” where, before praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered there, he addressed some words to a number of seminarians present accompanied by members of their families.
“Your parent’s love, devotion and fidelity, and the harmony which reigns in your families, is the setting which best enables you to hear God’s call and to accept the gift of a vocation,” he said. “Live intensely the years of preparation in the seminary, with the guidance and help of your formators, and with the docility and complete trust of the Apostles, who followed Jesus without hesitation. Learn from the Virgin Mary how to accept your vocation without reserve, with joy and generosity.”
The Pope then addressed some words in the Valencian language to the “Virgen de los Desamparados” saying: “Davant de la Cheperudeta vullc dirli: Ampareumos nit i dia en totes les necessitats, puix que sou, Verge María, Mare dels Desamparats.” (Standing before ‘La Cheperudeta,’ I want to say to her: Protect us night and day in all our needs, for you, O Virgin Mary, are the Mother of the Forlorn).
Having prayed the Angelus, Benedict XVI went to the archbishop’s palace, his official residence over the two days of his visit.

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