More than 400 soldiers have participated in the Holy Week processions this year. The Ministry of Defense justifies the presence of members of the Armed Forces in these religious events. "The participation of military personnel in this type of acts is considered part of the objective of the cultural security and defense policy, and the promotion of national defense awareness, which are considered as fundamental axes" in the National Defense Law and in the National Security Strategyargues the department of Margarita Robles in a response issued through the transparency portal.
"The expenses caused by the participation of military units in processions and religious acts are, in general, borne by the requesting brotherhood or civil entity," details the Ministry in the response addressed to elDiario.es.
Even so, there are some exceptions in which "travel expenses are paid to personnel who have voluntarily participated in this type of celebration with traditional military participation."
As of May 20, more than a month after the end of Holy Week, the amount paid by Defense to cover these transfers is limited to 1,654 euros. The largest amount (612 euros) was paid so that 32 soldiers participated in the procession of the Christ of Good Death in Malaga. For its part, the largest military detachment (62 attendees) traveled to Zamora (485 euros) to form part of the entourage of the Holy Burial.
The displacement of a single soldier to Almería to leave the Huércal Óvera pass meant 345 euros for the public coffers. Compared to that amount, the Ministry paid four euros for the transfer of 89 members of the Armed Forces to San Fernando (Cádiz). In total, 470 soldiers participated in religious acts during Holy Week in 2022.
In the response issued by the Ministry, Defense recalls that the Military Honors Regulation establishes that "when commissions, escorts or pickets are authorized to attend celebrations of a religious nature with traditional military participation, the exercise of the right to religious freedom will be respected and, consequently, attendance and participation in the acts will be voluntary."
Among the objectives that the department of Robles aspires to obtain with military participation in religious processions, they highlight that it seeks to "foster interest in issues related to security and defense by social and professional groups, promoting rapprochement between the society and its Armed Forces".
"As well as improving the institutional image of the Armed Forces through their participation in cultural events promoted by the different social sectors and at their request," adds the Ministry in the prepared response sent through the transparency portal to which it has accessed elDiario.es.
With the arrival of Robles at the Ministry, Defense stopped flying the flag at half-staff in military headquarters from Thursday to Sunday of Holy Week. In the stage of María Dolores de Cospedal (PP) at the head of that department this action was imposed to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ, despite the fact that institutions as the Ombudsman questioned its legality.
Beyond the decision that Robles made on the national flag, the minister did emphasize that the Government of Pedro Sánchez is "profoundly respectful" of religious beliefs and of Holy Week, a festival that she described as "very important from all points of view", both "cultural" and spiritual.
The explanations of the Ministry of Defense about the military presence in religious acts are prior to the information known this Wednesday about a unit of the Army that received the blessing of a priest in the Valley of the Fallen. In some images broadcast on the Telegram channel Ciudadanos de Uniforme, several dozen soldiers can be seen in front of the Cuelgamuros cross and kneeling before a priest while he blesses the members of the military detachment, as well as the unit's pennant.
Defense has reacted dismissing the captain in chief of the company. The department headed by Margarita Robles has opened "a disciplinary file that will be resolved in 48 hours", although official sources from the Ministry confirm that "the dismissal has already taken effect".