Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Spanish Civil War: an attempt at reconciliation ?

The Times reports that:

"Last month the ruling PSOE (the Party of the Spanish Socialist Workers) passed a law of historical memory (la ley de memoria histórica), assigning public funds to the families of victims of the 1936-39 civil war so that they can exhume their bodies.

In 2000, 13 unmarked graves of dead Republicans were discovered in a hamlet in northwest Spain. Their deaths, as the losers in the civil war, had never officially been honoured or even mentioned.

As dozens of similar Republican graves were found all over the country, the Spanish began, for the first time, to talk openly about the war.

It was a radical departure from El Pacto de Olvido, the consensual agreement to simply “forget” and never to discuss the war or the 40-year dictatorship that followed it. ...

Designed mainly to honour the Republican dead, the law of historical memory eventually covered “all victims of the war killed for religious or political reasons”. The words “religious reasons” refer to the war's other victims, the nearly 7,000 Catholic priests, nuns and monks murdered in the conflict by Republicans. Their ghosts still haunt the Spanish.

Three days before the law of historical memory was passed, nearly 500 of those religious victims were honoured by the Catholic Church in a mass beatification ceremony. The 498 individuals now on the path to sainthood were killed, often after being tortured, in 1934, 1936 and 1937.

The Vatican described them as “martyrs of the 21st century”. Spanish Catholics such as Alejandro Rodríguez de la Peña, secretary-general of the Asociación Católica de Propagandistas (The Catholic Propagandists' Association), describe them as innocent victims of the wave of anti-clerical persecution that swept 1930s Spain."