Pope asks Sagrada Família foundation to make prayer a priority

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Spain's top tourist attraction, the Sagrada Família basilica in Barcelona, must give priority to ensuring it is a place where people are inspired to pray, Pope Francis said.

The architectural and artistic masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí, which is still under construction, attracts close to 4 million visitors a year.

"Like the spires and bell towers, may the gazes of pilgrims be lifted, and their voices proclaim with the angels, 'Holy Immortal God,'" the pope said Feb. 17 during a meeting with members of the "junta constructora," the foundation that is responsible for the construction and upkeep of the basilica.

Work on the church began in 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026. In November, the newly finished towers of the four evangelists -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- were blessed.

The first of three façades on the basilica to be completed was that of the Nativity, and Pope Francis focused on the façade's doors in his remarks to the foundation members.

"Every portico has a theme, illustrated by passages from the Scriptures and framed by a prayer," he said. "Thus, the first door, that of faith, behind the image of Jesus who preaches to the doctors, shows us the holy Trisagion," the words of the prayer, "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us."

"Preached faith must become prayer. Always," the pope said.

"The central door of charity, whose main figure is precisely that of the Holy Family, invites us to raise our eyes to the mystery of the Incarnation," he said, "and from there, to pray the beads of the rosary that descend along the stained-glass windows, framing the star of Bethlehem, almost as if to say, 'Here is our light.'"

"In adoration, in the contemplative prayer of the mysteries" of Christ's birth, life, death and resurrection, he said, "we open ourselves to that light like the great stained-glass window of your temple."

Especially this year, which is dedicated to prayer in preparation for the Holy Year 2025, Pope Francis asked members of the foundation to "welcome in the basilica the pilgrims who approach" and help them prayerfully contemplate the design of Gaudí.

"It is important that the climate of prayer is not lost in temples; it must be a priority for those who, like you, have received the responsibility for the care of temples," the pope told them.