At a religious service held in Tarragona and attended by Spanish Cabinet members as well as Catalan premier Artur Mas, the Vatican on Sunday officially beatified 522 Catholic officials killed during the Spanish Civil War.
In a recorded message played at the ceremony, Pope Francis asked Spaniards to leave behind their egos and undertake charitable work “through actions, not words.”
While he praised the martyrs as “disciples,” the pope avoided mentioning the Catholic Church’s role during the 1936-39 Civil War in which it aligned itself with the Nationalist forces and, later, with the Francisco Franco regime — a painful chapter in the Church’s history that still irks many Spaniards, especially those on the left, today.
Church officials were asked to convince the pope to ask forgiveness for the Vatican’s role in the 1936 uprising
More than 20,000 people attended the beatification ceremony of the 522 martyrs in the Catalan city, including 4,000 of their family members. Besides Mas, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz and Congress speaker Jesús Posada were also present.
During his three-minute message Pope Francis described their deaths as part of the “religious persecution that took place in Spain in the 20th century.”
Some civil sectors, such as the Lay and Dignity Coordinator, as well as some Catholics, had asked Church officials to try to convince the pope to use the occasion to ask for forgiveness for the Vatican’s role in the 1936 uprising against the Republic and collaboration with the Franco dictatorship.
In another part of Tarragona, around 200 people gathered at a monument on l’Oliva mountain that marks the site of a grave where victims of the Franco regime are buried.
Officials from the coordinator said that it gathered around 1,300 signatures demanding that the pope address the Church’s role in the Civil War, and called the beatification of the 522 martyrs “an insult” because it “does not contribute to healing the open wounds.”