“Dictatorial” archbishop makes peace with revolting parishioners
A BITTER feud between a senior bishop and the residents of a small mountain town has come to a peaceful end.
A three-week-long war of words broke out between the parishioners of Albuñol and the Archbishop of Granada after the town’s priest was suddenly and unexplicably moved from the town’s diocese.
During the stand off, angry residents slammed monsignor Francisco Javier Martínez’s “dictatorial” style and threatened to take their battle to the Vatican to have Gabriel Castillo reinstated to the parish.
The archbishop hit back by refusing to explain his decision and, in a bizarre move, he bolted the 19th century church’s doors – forcing pious locals to other towns to worship.
One couple even had to rearrange their wedding plans and celebrate their nuptials in neighbouring La Rabita as the small town of 6,000 residents was left without a priest.
Then, 15 locals, desperate for the return of Castillo from his new posting in Cenes de la Vega, went on hunger strike, locking themselves into the farming town’s church.
Claiming to continue their protest until the archbishop gave into their request, the hunger strikers resumed eating after just three days.
However, the peeved primate still refused to meet with the albuñolenses (local residents) – even ignoring pleas for dialogue from the ombudsman of Andalucía.
In an immediate about turn, Martínez announced he would listen to the protests, yet would not consider giving back the much-loved Castillo.
Instead in early September, he installed 50-year-old Manuel España from nearby Albuñuelas as parish priest so worship in the town could continue.
Criticism from above
Supporters of Castillo, 27, claim the young priest involved himself with the village and its problems.
“He has helped immigrants by taking them into his home and has helped youths with their drug problems. Even children started to go to mass again as the priest implicated himself in the everyday life of the town,” one told the Olive Press.
A leading Spanish theologian claims the archbishop acted within the law and that the case highlights a lack of democracy in the Catholic Church.
“The Church is one of the few remaining institutions in the modern world that has its dictatorial ways still intact,” said Juan José Tamayo, the head of theology and religious science at Carlos III University in Madrid.
Since his arrival to the archbishopric of Granada, Martínez has courted controversy. He became the first archbishop in Spain to appear before a court after an archivist at the cathedral accused him of defamation.
Last year, he made headlines again when he broke 70 years of tradition and withdrew his seminarians from theology classes at Granada University, claiming they were not receiving “adequate teachings.”
He then expelled two Indian novices from a Granada monastery as they “were not Spanish” and called on parents to show civil disobedience over the introduction of social awareness classes in Spain’s schools.