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October 29, 2007 at 12:33 am #1758
Vatican takes aim at Spain’s Socialists as it beatifies 498 victims of leftist persecution
By NICOLE WINFIELD/Associated Press
October 28, 2007 – 6:23PM
VATICAN CITY (AP) The Vatican took on Spain’s Socialist government Sunday, criticizing its social policies as the church beatified nearly 500 victims of leftist persecution during the country’s civil war era.
The ceremony was the largest mass beatification ever by the Vatican, which supported the fascist dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco during and after his war against the leftists.
Some in Spain questioned the timing of the beatification of the 498 martyrs, which came three days before Spain’s parliament is expected to pass a Socialist-sponsored law that will for the first time formally condemn Franco’s rule and order the removal of all fascist symbols from the country.
Today’s Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party is far more moderate than its civil war namesake, although it does espouse some of the same left-wing policies.
Critics say the Vatican was hitting back at the government by simultaneously beatifying the two bishops, 24 priests and 462 members of religious orders, as well as a deacon, a subdeacon, a seminary student and seven lay Catholics. Since the late 1980s the church has beatified nearly 500 other clergy killed in the war, but in a series of smaller ceremonies.
Spain’s 1936-39 civil war pitted the elected leftist government against right-wing forces that rose up under Franco, who went on to win and presided over a nearly 40-year dictatorship.
Starting in 1931, the leftist forces targeted the Catholic Church, an institution they saw as a symbol of wealth, repression and inequality. Their attacks, which killed an estimated 7,000 clergy from 1931 to 1939, gave Franco a pretext for launching his rebellion.
Seventy-one bishops from Spain, a host of conservative Spanish politicians and Spanish pilgrims massed in St. Peter’s Square for Sunday’s ceremony, waving Spanish flags and breaking into applause after Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, declared the 498 beatified.
In his homily, Saraiva Martins took aim at Socialist legislation that facilitates divorce and gay marriages, as well as the administration’s scrapping of plans by a previous conservative government to make religion an obligatory subject in schools.
Criticizing all three initiatives, Saraiva Martins said there was a need to protect the family “founded on the sole and indissoluble marriage between a man and woman, on the primary right for parents to educate their children.”
The comments drew sustained applause from the crowd, which included Spaniards toting postcards featuring Franco-era flags.
Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and regional authorities attended but the Spanish government did not comment on the ceremony.
Pope Benedict XVI appeared at his studio window after the Mass to greet the pilgrims, saying the beatification of so many ordinary Catholics showed that martyrdom wasn’t reserved for a few but “is a realistic possibility for the entire Christian people.”
“This martyrdom in ordinary life is an important witness in today’s secularized society,” he said.
The church says the ceremony is being held now because Benedict finished signing the decrees only two months ago, not because of any attempt to coincide with this week’s parliament vote.
Pilgrim Jose-Luis Martin Paredes, a retired truck driver from Toledo, Spain, strongly criticized his government and applauded the Vatican’s stance.
“Spain doesn’t want the church because we have Socialists and Communists in the government,” he said. “I came here to support Spain and the martyrs.”
Ties between the church and the Spanish government, which took office in 2004, have also grown tense over the government’s attempts to make the church more self-financing. As of a year ago, Spain no longer makes direct payments to the church, instead allowing taxpayers a choice whether to divert 0.7 percent of their taxes or not.
vldlsNovember 9, 2007 at 5:51 pm #8706
Just more support for my thesis that socialism is bad for the USofA.
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