Controversial plans by Spain’s governing Socialists to rebury General Francisco Franco will not be opposed by the Vatican, which has now instructed Church leaders to comply with government demands, according to the country’s media.
La Vanguardia reported that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, had stated this clearly in a letter to Spain’s vice-premier, Carmen Calvo, adding that Fr Santiago Cantera, prior of the Benedictine abbey responsible for Franco’s tomb, had been directed to respect government rulings on the issue. It said the latest exchange, which was confirmed by Bishop Luis Argüello Garcia, secretary-general of Spain’s bishops’ conference, took the Vatican a “significant step” beyond its previous insistence that the dictator’s reinterment was a “purely internal Spanish matter”.
However, a government spokeswoman, Isabel Celaá Diéguez, said administrative procedures had been delayed by legal appeals by Franco’s grandchildren, making the reburial unlikely before parliamentary elections on April 28. “I wish Franco’s victims had had the same guarantees as his family,” Celaá said at a press conference.
Prime minister Pedro Sánchez ordered Franco’s exhumation from the Valley of the Fallen, 35 miles north of Madrid, under a decree last August, as part of plans to transform the site, constructed after the 1936-9 Civil War by republican political prisoners, into “a place of common memory”.
The caudillo’s descendants requested Church support in blocking the move in a letter to Fr Cantera, prior at the site, which includes the world’s tallest cross. Meanwhile, the Madrid archdiocese called for disputes over the reburial to be “properly settled with the greatest possible consensus”. However, after Rome talks with Cardinal Parolin last October, Carmen Calvo said the government had rejected archdiocesan plans to reinter the dictator in the capital’s Almudena Cathedral, citing public order dangers.
A final order for Franco’s exhumation from the Valley, which contains the graves of 34,000 other Civil War fighters, was approved on February 15 by the Sanchez government, which gave family members two weeks to propose an alternative place of interment.