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Barcelona cardinal condemns ‘deplorable’ referendum violence

Crowds gather in Barcelona's Plaça de Catalunya on polling day in the outlawed Catalan independence referendum (Getty Images)

The Archbishop of Barcelona has condemned the violence during Sunday’s Catalan independence referendum as “deplorable”.

Speaking towards the end of voting, Cardinal Juan José Omella called for a “peaceful and democratic outcome to the situation” and pleaded for “the God of peace” to intervene.

Violent clashes broke out across the Spanish region on Sunday as police tried to crack down on the illegal referendum.

Catalan officials claimed 884 people were injured, while reports surfaced of voters being dragged out of polling stations by police.

The regional government called the referendum earlier this year, but the Spanish Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Spain’s government vowed to stop the vote going ahead and threatened to suspend any public official who helped organise it.

Despite the police action, the Catalan government reported a turnout of over 40 per cent, 90 per cent of whom voted for independence.

Regional president Carles Puigdemont said Catalonia had “won the right to become an independent state” and vowed to declare independence unilaterally within days.

The move will almost certainly be blocked by the Spanish government, which now has the option of suspending Catalonia’s regional autonomy.