Nearly a thousand people took part in a solemn Mass at the Almudena Cathedral in Madrid on Tuesday in memory of the victims of the March 11, 2004 terrorist attacks. As well as 350 victims, 150 members of the authorities, 500 citizens and representatives of the emergency services present in the aftermath of the massacre, the service was also attended by the Spanish king and queen, Princess Letizia and Princess Elena.
On behalf of the government, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón and Interior Minister Jorge Fernández were also in attendance. Notable absences included Rajoy’s predecessors, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, of the Socialist Party, and José María Aznar, from Rajoy’s Popular Party. Aznar was prime minister at the time of the attacks, which occurred just three days before general elections, which his party lost. Zapatero, who emerged victorious at the 2004 polls, was not invited to the Mass.
During the service, Madrid Archbishop Antonio María Rouco Varela called on people to examine their own conscience. “How have we behaved with [the victims] during these tough years?” he asked. Many of the victims feel they were persecuted after the attacks by sections of the media and right-wing forces, who insisted that Basque terrorist group ETA was involved in the bombings, despite no evidence to support that theory. Rouco went on to attribute the massacre to “people with dark objectives to win power.” Some observers interpreted this as a veiled reference to conspiracy theories involving a plot between the Socialists and the Spanish police to cover up the true authors of the attacks in order to secure the elections.
How have we behaved with the victims during these tough years?"
Rouco also spoke of the importance of forgiveness, “to which we must always be open, even though it can only be effective when sincere remorse is shown for the crimes committed and the damage caused is repaired.”
Pilar Manjón, whose son died aged 20 at El Pozo train station, and who is now the head of the largest 11-M victims group, explained this week that she would have rather seen a non-religious ceremony to remember the victims, given that many of those who died and their families are not Catholic. But in order to avoid controversy in the media about division among the victims, Manjón attended the service on Tuesday along with the presidents of the AVT victims association, Ángeles Pedraza, the Foundation of Victims of Terrorism, Marimar Blanco, and the Association for 11-M Victims, Ángeles Domínguez.
Representatives from other religions also attended, though without participating. Among these were the president of the Spanish Islamic Commission, Riay Tatary, and Bishop Timotei, from the Orthodox Romanian Church. A total of 40 bishops were present.