Spanish bishops apologise for silence over killings
It has taken a rather long time for the Spanish Catholic Church to acknowledge these unfortunate deaths during Franco´s dictatorship.
Spanish bishops broke decades of silence at the weekend to apologise for the killing of 14 priests by Francisco Franco’s troops during the civil war, asking forgiveness for the church’s collusion with the dictator’s cause
The bishop of Vitoria celebrated a memorial service in the cathedral of the Basque regional capital yesterday to mark the execution 73 years ago by Francoist troops of 14 priests who had never received a funeral, and whose deaths were never officially recorded.
"The silence with which officials of our Church surrounded the deaths of these priests is not justifiable nor acceptable for much longer," Bishop Miguel Asurmendi said... "Such a long silence was not only a wrongful omission, but a lack of truth and an act against justice and charity, for which we ask pardon," the bishop added.
The apology is unprecedented. Spain’s ecclesiastical hierarchy supported Francisco Franco from the moment the civil war broke out in 1936. It never wavered in its support for his 40-year dictatorship, and uttered no word of remorse during more than three decades of democracy that followed the generalissimo’s death in 1975....
Historians believe several thousand priests, monks and nuns were killed by defenders of the Spanish republic against Franco’s troops, in a bloody three-year conflict that caused up to half a million deaths. Many Spaniards were passionately anti-clerical, regarding priests as upholders of the rich and powerful in a brutally unequal society.
Franco ruled with what the historian Paul Preston called “vengeful cruelty” for 40 years after his victory in 1939, during which his regime, his bishops, cardinals and local parish priests, honoured their own dead in extravagant ceremonies. But they expunged the memory of tens of thousands of opponents who still lie in the unmarked graves where they were tossed after pre-dawn executions.