Nov 5, 2007
On October 28, the Catholic church “beatified” 498 Spanish priests, monks and nuns during a high mass celebrated in the Vatican. This religious ceremony, carried out in Rome, was organized to protest against the “law on the recuperation of historical memory” which the Spanish Congress is about to approve. This law aims to get rid of the symbols of the Franco dictatorship from 1939 to 1975 and to help search for the people who disappeared during Franco’s reign, in particular the thousands of people who were shot and thrown into common graves.
When the Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931, after seven years of dictatorship, Pope Pius XI, politely greeted the new regime. But in all the political and social conflicts which followed, the great majority of the clergy took the side of the great landowners (of which the Spanish church was a part), the bosses and the fascist groups which were sent to attack the laboring population. Pius XI, dredging up anti-communism, blessed Franco’s armies for a civil war that the church called a crusade. It was a crusade that led to several hundred thousand victims and ended with another dictatorship which lasted 40 more years in Spain.
Priests, monks and nuns paid dearly at the time for the political choices made by the Catholic hierarchy, which made them oppose the wishes of the Spanish laboring population. The Basque priests who died at the hands of the Franco dictatorship’s firing squads also paid the supreme price. But the church didn’t think of beatifying them, because they supported the Spanish Republic which recognized the autonomy of the Basque Country.
Seventy years later, the Vatican in Rome hasn’t changed its attitude regarding the Spanish Civil War. This ceremony maintains the longstanding policy of the Catholic church hierarchy to ally with and support the most reactionary forces of society. From the far-off days of the Inquisition or the colonization of Latin America to the time of the church’s alliance with Franco, the church of Spain has blessed – with the endorsement of all the popes who came afterward – exploitation of the laboring population, repression and dictatorships.