It is one of the most remarkable churches in all the world, in all of human history. Begun in 1892 and not expected to be finished until 2030, La Sagrada Familia is Antonio Gaudi’s masterpiece.
It is odd and wonderful to behold, its barrel-shaped spires springing up all around, its soaring interior arches offering glory to the Holy Family. It is awful to behold, like a fairytale, like something not even Peter Jackson’s set designer could imagine.
Alas, it may not stand for long for it has been targeted by Islamists and the weakness of the Church in Catalonia and the perfidy of the Catalonian government practically guarantees something terrible will happen to it. Something almost did only a few weeks ago; yet another Islamist attack and one that has been quickly shoved down the memory hole.
New Jersey resident Daniel Sexton was there that day on The Ramblas when the terrorists came blasting through in their van running down man, woman, and child. Sexton is angry at the attacks he watched with his own eyes to be sure, but also by a glaring absence.
He watched as strangers offered succor to the wounded. He saw one man “jumping from body to body giving CPR here, making a tourniquet there.” He believes he saw Spanish soccer star Lucas Digne who, it was reported, bolted from his luxury apartment to assist the wounded and the dying.
Sexton says that for the 45 minutes he was on the scene, he watched several people pronounced dead “as resuscitation efforts by just regular people were abandoned when the medics said there was no hope.”
With “regular people” and medical personnel scrambling all around helping the suffering, the absence Sexton noted was any presence of Catholic priests. He told me, “Not a single priest appeared in my sight to give Extreme Unction to the dying, to comfort those in agony, to give witness to those in shock that Christ is with us, that he has overcome the world and that we must be willing to undergo any and every trial for the sake of the Kingdom.” He says even if a priest did nothing, standing there in his cassock would have born witness. But the dying saw no minister of God to assist them.
There are four Churches near to the attack: the Basilica of St. Maria, the parish of St. Augustin, the parish of St. Philip Neri, and the Cathedral of the Cardinal Archbishop of Barcelona. Sexton wonders why priests did not run to the cacophonous sound of the sirens converging on the neighborhood.
Into this seemingly retreating and even absent Church comes radical Islam. Catalonia is a hot bed of Islamic radicalism. Catalonia has the highest Muslim population in Spain and, according to Soeren Kern of the Gatestone Institute, “it is also one of the most Islamized regions of the country.” Out of 7.5 million residents, Catalonia has an estimated 500,000 Muslims. That is almost 7 percent, but Kern says the Muslim population of some towns ranges upward of 40 percent, mostly young men from North Africa and Southeast Asia. What could go wrong?
Catalan terrorism expert Jofre Montoto estimates that 10 percent of the Muslims in Catalonia have become radicalized. The Spanish national police estimate there are roughly 60,000 Pakistani Muslims living in and around Barcelona alone. A five-page diplomatic cable reported, “There is little doubt that the autonomous region of Catalonia has become a prime base of operations for terrorist activity.” The cable was from ten years ago, three years after the Madrid train bombing that took 192 lives. It’s not like the Spanish did not know.
Into the stew there is the leftist Catalonian government that has been resistant to take even meagre precautions or to heed massive warning that something was about to happen.
After the Islamist truck attack in Berlin last year, the national police force ordered all central, regional, and municipal police departments to “implement physical security measures to protect public spaces” including “large planters or bollards at access points to hinder or prevent entry of vehicles.” Barcelona’s left-wing mayor has repeatedly refused to “fill Barcelona with barriers.”
Only weeks before the attack, the CIA warned the Catalan government that The Ramblas was being targeted for attack and that an attack was imminent.
What’s more, the Islamist built the bomb intended to blast La Sagrada Familia practically in plain sight, in an abandoned chalet in the beach town of Alcanar, a mere 120 miles from Barcelona. A large terror cell occupied the vacant house and went to work and no one noticed when they collected more than 100 large gas canisters that they later filled with an explosive known as the “Mother of Satan.” The terror cell was led by an Imam named Abdelbaki Es-Satti, a convicted drug dealer who spent four years in prison but was inexplicably allowed to stay in Catalonia. Rather than blow up Gaudi’s masterpiece, Es-Satti went to his maker when he accidentally detonated his deadly device. He took only one of his death-cult followers with him.
The sea upon which the Islamists seemingly sail with impunity is one provided by the leftists of Catalonia who want to break away from Spain. It should be remembered that this region was the most radical and most anti-Catholic during the Spanish Civil War. As in many parts of the world, there is a cozy relationship between leftist radicals and radical Islam. Soeren Kern, writing at the Gatestone Institute, makes the rather shocking claim that more than 10,000 Catalans with connections to the Catalan separatist movement have actually converted to Islam.
And then we have the Catholic Church, the Church that seemed to have been absent that day on The Ramblas as 14 people lay dead and dying. Here is what the Cardinal Archbishop said the day after Islamic radicals murdered some of his flock, including that little boy who died crumpled and face down in the gutter: “God is the God of life and love in all religions.”
Gaudi’s church may be blown up one day. It may become a Mosque. Who knows. What we do know is a void will always be filled.
Editor’s note: In the photo above, Spain’s King Felipe, center and Queen Letizia, center right arrive to attend a solemn Mass at Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia Basilica for the victims of the terror attacks. (Photo Credit: Associated Press)