Government asks Vatican to help with Franco tomb revamp

But Pope Benedict and Zapatero stick to economy as they meet in Madrid

The cardinal secretary of state of the Vatican, Tarcisio Bertone, has been receptive to a request by the Spanish government for the Church to help in the transformation of the controversial Valle de los Caídos monument into a place of reconciliation, according to government sources. The proposal, made during a lunch attended by Bertone, Cabinet Secretary Ramón Jáuregui and Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez in Madrid Friday, included the assurance that neither the site's use as a basilica, nor the presence of Benedictine monks there would be called into question.

An expert committee is preparing a report for the government, due in October, on the future use of the monument, situated to the north of Madrid. The government wants to turn the site Franco had built for his own tomb and that of thousands of Civil War dead from "a space of the old Francoist National Catholicism" into one of "reconciled memory."

More information
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The Valley of the Fallen was not, however, on the agenda when Benedict XVI met Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in Madrid as the pope continued his visit to the capital for the Church's World Youth Day (WYD) event. Among other topics, the two men discussed the international economic situation and Spain-Vatican relations, said a Moncloa statement. Zapatero promised the pontiff he would "apply effectively the adopted adjustment measures" to confront the economic crisis in Spain.

In Madrid's Sol square on Thursday night there were more clashes between police and protestors demonstrating against the cost of the pope's visit in a country still fighting to recover from a deep recession, resulting in police charges and four injuries. Eight people were arrested and 11 injured following confrontations on Wednesday. Madrid's ombudsmen for minors, Arturo Canalda, on Friday opened an official investigation into whether "assaults or veiled threats" were committed against pilgrims in face-offs between protestors and WYD participants during the demonstration.

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