PSOE slams cemetery plaque honouring murdered priests

LAST UPDATED: 6 Apr, 2009 @ 16:50
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Church denies “Spanish martyr” ceremony is in response to new law

SOCIALISTS in Almería have demanded the removal of a plaque from a local cemetery that commemorates Catholic victims of the Civil War.

The Archbishop of Almería and the ruling Partido Popular town hall of Berja erected the offending monument on May 31 this year to honour priests killed in the eastern Alpujarra during the three-year conflict.

The plaque reads in part “Memorial to the martyrs, whose blood has been spilled on this land,” before listing the names of six local priests, killed during the conflict and buried in the cemetery.

Local PSOE officials, who are in opposition in the town, believe it an “offence to those who died in defence of liberty and democracy.”

The Berja PSOE secretary general, Serafín Robles, added: “It does not matter if something such as this was hung in the PP headquarters as then it would only be seen by PP members. But it is in the municipal cemetery where everyone can see it, even those whose who suffered under Franco’s repression.”

The Partido Popular, some of whose founding members served as ministers under the dictator, oppose the Law of Historical Memory. Angel Acebes, the party’s national general secretary, has called it a “huge mistake.”

Meanwhile, the largest beatification the Vatican has ever witnessed will see almost 500 Spanish Catholics who fell during the Civil War honoured.

The “Spanish martyrs of the Civil War” ceremony will see 498 Catholics beatified in St Peter’s Square on October 28 – just two days before controversial legislation comes into effect in Spain.

The Law of Historical Memory, which has been heavily criticised by Church officials, officially condemns Francisco Franco’s 30-year dictatorship.

Once it becomes law at the end of October, statues honouring the 1936-1939 conflict and subsequent dictatorship will be stripped from public view.

Stained glass windows and plaques in many churches commemorating Franco fighters “fallen for God and Spain” will also be replaced.

The Catholic Church was one of the main supporters of the military uprising against the secular Republic in 1936. Many priests, monks and nuns were killed by supporters of the Republic during the Civil War.

However, senior Church officials were swift in denying any links between the beatification ceremony and the introduction of the legislation.

“The Church works on its own calendar and is not dictated by any other, least of all a political calendar,” Juan Antonio Martínez Camino, a spokesman for Spain’s Episcopal Conference, said.

“It is coincidence. The date has been set by the Holy See.”

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