The long and complex process which could set Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi on the path to sainthood, has begun.
    The Vatican has declared "nihil obstat", or no obstacle, in the bid to make a saint of the eccentric genius loved by residents and visitors to Barcelona alike.
    Gaudi is best known for the city's unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, commonly recognised as the work of a deeply religious man. Its soaring towers are designed to reach towards heaven. Virtually every surface is covered with biblical motifs and the whole structure is inspired by Gaudi's vision of God's creation.
    Jose Manuel Almuzara Perez, architect and president of the Association for the Beatification of Antoni Gaudi, welcomes the Vatican's move.
    "It's just like someone winning an Oscar or a literary prize," says Mr Perez. It's our way of saying 'What a great man!' We want to give him a prize and in the Church we can make great people into saints, to serve as an example to other people."
    In 1915, Monsignor Ragonesi, Papal Nuncio in Spain, told Gaudi after a visit to the Sagrada Familia during construction: "Your magnificent work is a Christian poem carved in stone."
19 July 00

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