The Catalan regional bishops conference last Tuesday issued a statement ahead of Sunday’s regional election – widely seen as an informal referendum on independence – saying the Church will not propose specifics, but can agree with positions that have “moral legitimacy.”
Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain centered on Barcelona, which in recent years has seen agitation for independence from Spain.
The region’s Sept. 27 elections bolstered the separatist movement, with the Junts pel Si Party (Together For Yes) winning 62 of the regional parliament’s 135 seats. If it allies with the Popular Unity Party, which is also pro-independence, it will have a parliamentary majority.
In their Sept. 22 statement anticipating the election, the Catalan bishops said they “confirm it is not the Church’s place to propose a specific option, but they do defend the moral legitimacy of all political options that are based on the dignity of persons and peoples and that perseveringly seek peace, solidarity and justice.”
They also referred to an earlier statement, in which they had recognized “the considerable historic importance” this vote can have for the Catalan Parliament and so they consequently wanted to “contribute to the reflections of all the citizens of Catalonia, with the light that comes to us from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, aware that decisive questions on the institutional, political, and social level are in play.”
“Within the democratic framework, we believe that our voice as well, presented in a spirit of service, can enrich the current debate on the present and future of our country,” the bishops of Catalonia noted.
They also recalled their “love for the Catalonian homeland, which the Church has desired to serve from its beginnings, and our respect for the legitimate diversity of the options that will be voted on.”
The Catalan prelates recognized that “new challenges and new aspirations that affect the specific form in which the people of Catalonia should articulate (their position) and how they wish to fraternally relate with the other peoples in Spain, in the European context” “have become clearer still with the passage of time and taken on greater intensity.”
They added that “the duty of all citizens to actively participate in the elections as a way of exercising their own responsibility in the search for the common good,” especially “in a crucial moment such as we are going through, which can have long lasting consequences.”
In this way they asked the citizens of Catalonia to express themselves through their vote, “keeping in mind the great values that society must be built upon, such as the respect for the rights of persons, families and institutions, as well as the honesty and transparency of the political process.”
The Catalan bishops’ statement came shortly after Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera of Valencia (capital of the Valencian Community) had requested prayers for the unity of Spain.
Spain did not emerge as a unified country until the 16th century, consisting until then of regional kingdoms and language groups, whose legacy continues to impact Spanish national life and politics.
Catalonia has its own languages, Catalan and Occitan, beside Spanish, and Catalan nationalism developed in the late 19th century.
Following Sunday’s elections, the Junts pel Si party leaders said he will push for independence. The Spanish prime minister has said he will not discuss Spanish unity, but is prepared to listen to the new Calatan parliament.