Felipe VI pays tribute to rail and plane crash victims on Galicia national day

King also makes reference to Spanish unity and unemployment in speech at Santiago Cathedral

Felipe VI made his first appearance in the Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela as king with a speech loaded with messages on Friday. Just 37 days after having been proclaimed Spain’s new monarch, he made the traditional offering to St James the Apostle at the city’s cathedral on Galicia’s national day. The last time a monarch did so was in 2010 when King Juan Carlos attended the official events marking the Year of St James.

The core of his speech was addressed to those Spaniards who “have been severely hit by unemployment” and “the lack of work opportunities for young people.” Felipe had done the same in the speech he gave when he was proclaimed king last month. And on Friday, the day of St James, Spain’s patron saint, he said he wanted to repeat the message because “all of us, without exception, want to continue leaving behind the difficult times.”

Felipe, who was accompanied by Queen Letizia, was also quick to remember the victims of the Alvia train accident near Santiago that left 79 dead a year ago on Thursday. “I want that my first words remember, with a profound sense of pain, the victims of the Angrois accident that last year filled so many families with grief, moved the whole of Spain and cast a shadow over this festival,” he said.

He also had words of consolation for the relatives of the victims of the Spanish-owned plane that crashed over Mali on Thursday. Six Spanish crew members were among the 118 people who died. “The Queen and I want to translate our condolences and the feelings of solidarity of all Spaniards to the relatives of the victims,” he said.

At a solemn event where the head of state rubbed shoulders with the upper echelons of the Spanish church – the Mass was officiated by the Archbishop of Santiago – the central, regional and local governments and representatives of the three branches of the armed forces, Felipe VI also made a nod to the unity of the country, as he had also done in his coronation speech. “In our Spain, united and diverse, fit all feelings and sensitivities, all forms of being Spanish.”

At a time when Europe is going through the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the king also made a comparison between the Way of St James pilgrimage route, which ends at the cathedral, and the European project, which is now more unstable than ever following the May 25 elections in which Eurosceptics gained considerable ground. “The way […] was the first common European project. Spain is – and will always go on being – firmly committed to it,” he concluded, before heading out to greet local residents, tourists and pilgrims who had formed two rows to make a perfect path for him from the door of the cathedral to the center of the Plaza del Obradoiro outside.