Spain’s former dictator, General Francisco Franco, has been reburied at a Madrid cemetery with Church approval, despite protests by right-wing devotees and complaints by Catholic clergy.
The remains of Franco (1892-1975), who ruled for four decades after the Spanish Civil War, were exhumed on October 24 from a Catholic basilica at the Valley of the Fallen outside Madrid, and transported to the city’s El Pardo-Mingorrubio cemetery. Fr Santiago Cantera, prior of the Valley’s Benedictine abbey, blessed the coffin with holy water amid “Viva!” chants from the dictator’s family, who were refused military honours and a new state funeral after court rulings cleared the way for the reinterment.
The exhumation was ordered in August 2018 by the Socialist government of premier Pedro Sánchez, which later opposed demands for Franco’s reburial in Madrid’s Catholic La Almudena Cathedral, citing risks of public disorder. In July, the Vatican’s spokesman Alessandro Gisotti reiterated “full respect for the sovereignty of the Spanish state and its legal system” over the issue, while the Spanish bishops’ conference secretary general, Mgr Luis Argüello, also promised that the Catholic Church would not oppose the move, while cautioning against the “reopening of wounds”.
Last week the cathedral, Catholic university, Apostolic Nunciature and several Madrid churches were daubed in pro-Franco graffiti, while Fr Cantera lodged legal complaints against police behaviour at the Valley of the Fallen in the run-up to the exhumation, claiming that the site’s religious sanctity had been violated.
Preaching during Franco’s reinterment at a cemetery Mass, Fr Ramón Tejero (son of 1981 coup leader General Antonio Tejero) described the dictator as an “exemplary Catholic” and “humble servant of Christ the Redeemer”, who had “implanted social justice” and shown “compassion and dedication to the most disadvantaged”.
“We cannot allow these heinous acts to harden our spirits,” the priest told Catholic supporters. “Nor can we understand the great affront which some are inflicting on his mortal remains. But I am convinced he would see it as another sacrifice for God and Spain.”
A recent opinion poll found that 43 per cent of Spaniards favoured Franco’s reburial, with 35 per cent believing he should remain at the Valley of the Fallen, which contains the graves of over 30,000 Civil War victims and was built by forced labourers on Franco’s orders to house his mausoleum. The Sánchez government, in office since June 2018, has said it will transform the Valley into “a place of reconciliation and common memory”, and take steps to prevent the site’s use as “a place of pilgrimage for fascists”.
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