Franco’s remains on the table in upcoming Vatican talks

La Almudena Cathedral in downtown Madrid, where Franco family wants dictator re-buried. Photo: Público
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The future resting place of dictator Francisco Franco will be at the center of talks later this month at the Vatican between Spanish Vice-President Carmen Calvo and the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, according to Spanish media reports.

At issue is the determination of the Franco family to inter Franco’s remains in the high-visibility location of the Almudena Cathedral, less than two minutes away from Spain’s Royal Palace in downtown Madrid, as soon as the new Socialist government of President Pedro Sánchez has them removed from the Valley of the Fallen mausoleum on Madrid’s outskirts. The government’s decision to move Franco from the site was ratified last month in an historic 174-2 vote by Congress, with 164 abstentions from the conservative Partido Popular (PP) and centre-right Ciudadanos parties.

The Franco family, unsuccessful in efforts to block the government’s disinterment of the dictator’s remains from his controversial resting place of 40 years, announced last month that they would re-bury Franco in a crypt the family purchased in the 1980s adjacent to the downtown cathedral.

The surprise move created a problem for the government, which had hoped to move Franco from a place of honor that effectively glorifies his military factory over forces loyal to the elected Republican government in Spain’s bloody 1936-39 Civil War. If successful in their determination to move the dictator’s remains to the Almudena, the family would place Franco in an even higher-profile location that the government fears could become a pilgrimage site for Spain’s ultra-right.

Calvo has issued a diplomatic denial that Franco’s resting place is at the center of her upcoming discussions with Parolin at the Vatican. Saying that the decision to move Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen has been taken by the government and the church has no say in the matter, she omitted mentioning the issue of the dictator’s re-burial in the Madrid cathedral.

According to reports in multiple media outlets, however, the Sánchez government will be appealing to the Vatican to step in and influence the Spanish Catholic church hierarchy against granting permission for Franco’s burial at La Almudena. Cardinal Carlos Osoro, Archbishop of Madrid, has said the church cannot revoke the contract the Francos hold for the family crypt at the cathedral and cannot dictate which family members they want buried there.

It would appear that the government may have some leverage in the upcoming talks. According to the agenda points for the upcoming meeting in Rome published by the daily El País newspaper, also on the agenda is the matter of the Catholic church’s dubious ownership of the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which appears to have been fraudulently acquired by the church in 2006 under a Franco-era law for the sum of 30 euros, as well as its similar acquisition of scores of public plazas, stately homes and other properties throughout Spain.

► Read More in Spanish at El País, Europa Press and Público …

► Read More in English at El País …

► Read Backgrounder in English at The Atlantic magazine …

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