On Wednesday Pope Francis met with members of the organization in charge of promoting the cause for canonization of Antoni Gaudi, known as “God's architect,” telling them that he hopes the cause moves forward quickly.
“The meeting with Pope Francis was an unforgettable experience; he told me that ‘Gaudi is a great mystic’ and that he hopes he will be declared Venerable soon,” Jose Manuel Almuzara told CNA Dec. 18.
Almuzara heads the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudi. Originally started as a small group of laymen with a tiny budget, the association decided to investigate the possibility in of Gaudi's sainthood in 1992; the cause for his canonization was officially opened in Rome in 2003.
In Rome this week for a conference and concert inspired by Gaudi, Almuzara was accompanied by the postulator of Gaudi’s cause for canonization, Silvia Correale, as well as other members of the association.
Titled “Gaudi and mercy,” the event took place the afternoon of Dec. 15 at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. Almuzara was the speaker, and was joined by pianist Manuel José Ruíz Segarra and soprano Rocío Martínez for the concert.
The group met with Pope Francis the next day during his Dec. 16 general audience. During the encounter, Almuzara said that he recited one of Gaudi’s more famous quotes: “The Church does not cease to build and therefore its head is the Pope — which means he builds bridges — churches are bridges to reach Glory.”
He told Francis he appreciates his efforts to “build bridges,” and asked if the pontiff had read a book he had given to him in April titled “Sagrada Familia, Opus Magnum de Gaudí,” to which the Pope replied that he had.
Almuzara explained that the association had wanted to participate in the Jubilee of Mercy in a concrete way, so they came up with the idea of the “Gaudi and mercy” workshop and invited members of universities, dioceses, institutions, schools, parishes from around the world to participate.
When he handed the Pope a flier, Almuzara recalled how Francis said the workshop seemed like “an excellent idea.”
“(Gaudi) is an example of life and work who took mercy into account, with a face to recognize, contemplate and serve; who throughout his life lived with intensity the signs of the presence and the closeness of God,” Almuzara said.
The audience with the Pope, then, was a means of uniting with his desire to make the Church “a credible sign of mercy,” he said, adding that “we believe that Antoni Gaudi is an example through his life and work.”
Gaudi, a Servant of God, was born in 1852 in Spain's autonomous community of Catalonia. He was a devout Catholic, which together with forms drawn from nature greatly influenced his architecture; he has received the nickname “God’s architect” due to the emphasis he placed on religion in his works.
His most famous work is the basilica of the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) in Barcelona. He began his work on the masterpiece in 1883, and in 1914 stopped all other projects to work exclusively on the masterpiece, to which he dedicated himself until his death in 1926.
The church was consecrated by Benedict XVI in 2010, and named a basilica. Still under construction, it is expected to be completed by 2026, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
The basilica is known to have inspired conversions, one of whom was a Japanese architect who in 1998 was sent by the South Korean government to study Gaudi's work in Barcelona, in preparation for an exhibition on the Gaudi’s works.
Given only one week to complete his work, the man, a Buddhist at the time, wrote a letter to the association several months later revealing that he was converting to Catholicism.
That same Japanese architect designed a special ambo for Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which was completed and installed in time for Francis’ Nov. 10 visit to the Italian city. (Almuzara told us this during the Pope’s visit to Florence — we tried to track the architect down, but were never able to reach him.)
Almuzara and Correale also had a meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, and the congregation’s secretary Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, in order to discuss the progress of Gaudi’s cause.
The meeting was “very cordial and helpful,” Almuzara said, adding that while no dates have been set, the cardinal encouraged them to continue working to advance the cause.
Specifically, the cardinal encouraged them in their work compiling what is called the “la positio super vita, virtutibus et fama sanctitatis,” that is, the book compiling “the position on the life, virtues and reputation of holiness” of the person under question.
Included in “the positio” are several things, which Almuzara listed as: a full exposition on the history of the cause or process; the declarations of the witnesses and the documentation on the person’s life, work and the reputation of holiness of the person’s intercession; the opinion on the person’s writings; the documented biography of the person and the information on the heroic virtues they exercised.
Once the volume is completed it must be presented to the congregation, Almuzara said, explaining that if they recognize the heroic virtue of Gaudi, it will then be presented to the Pope, who would then authorize it’s publication, allowing Gaudi to be called “Venerable.”
He also spoke of possible miracles attributed to Gaudi, saying that while there is “no miracle recognized as such” yet, certain favors have been recorded by individuals and families who have asked for Gaudi’s intercession and sent them in for study.
As of now “there is no concrete date for Gaudi to be either a venerable or a blessed,” Almuzara said, but added “who can calculate or put a date on a miracle?”
The miracle, he said, “we put in into the hands of Divine Providence, (because) only God knows the day and the hour.”
“Therefore we remain vigilant,” he said, and, quoting a remark Gaudi had made about the amount of time needed to complete the Sagrada Familia, stressed that “our client is not in a hurry.”