Defying the regional government of Catalonia, a Spanish cardinal held a funeral Mass on Sunday for coronavirus victims hours after threatening legal action against civil authorities for curbs on religious gatherings.
Cardinal Juan José Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona, had invited 500 people to the Mass in the iconic Sagrada Família basilica in anticipation of the Catalonian government lifting a 10-person cap for religious events on Friday. However, with coronavirus cases rising sharply in the region, the government delayed the change.
By that time, reports Crux, the invitations had already been sent to family members of people who had died and Cardinal Omella refused to cancel the Requiem Mass.
“During the next few days, we will initiate the appropriate legal actions,” the cardinal said.
“It is a provision that seems unfair and discriminatory to us taking into account that we have been very careful and respectful in maintaining the sanitary regulations required for closed spaces, presented at all times to the Administration, with the approval of doctors,” he added.
Cardinal Omella, who is also president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, said it was not justifiable that up to 1,000 tourists were allowed into the basilica at any one time, yet only 10 could attend a Mass. Even if all 500 guests had attended the Mass, the basilica would only have been 23 per cent full.
Quim Torra, president of the Catalonian government, said on Monday that he had ordered the health ministry to investigate the Mass.
In a strongly worded attack, Torra accused Cardinal Omella of failing to “raise his voice” when Catalonian politicians were detained following the region’s failed independence bid in 2017.
“It’s fine if Cardinal Omella appeals to religious liberty, but over the years he has forgotten the Constitution and human rights” regarding freedom of expression, Torra said.