Gabino Díaz Merchán's parents were shot at the beginning of the Civil War on the wall of the cemetery between Mora and Orgaz, in the province of Toledo. Who would later become the successor of Cardinal Vicente Enrique y Tarancón both in the Archbishopric of Oviedo and in the Episcopal Conference, and who died this week at the age of 96, was ten years old at the time.
His parents were considered martyrs of the war and, as such, beatified in the first macrobeatification of 2007. However, for years, Díaz Merchán opposed imposing the historical memory of the winners of the contest. When Pope John Paul II informed him in 1986, fifty years after the start of Franco's coup d'état, that the Catholic Church was going to start raising those killed by the Crusade to the altars, Díaz Merchán rejected the idea. "I couldn't go back to my town," they say he replied. That same year he publicly made these declarations: "We cannot make the martyrs a political weapon." Shortly after, in 1987, Rome approved the first beatifications of the contest.
Gabino Díaz Merchán was one of the last bishops to resist the involution of the Church decreed by Karol Wojtyla after the Second Vatican Council and the pontificates of John XXIII and Paul VI. The latter made Díaz Merchán the youngest bishop in the world (at 39 years old) and prepared him to succeed the mediatic Cardinal Tarancón both in Oviedo (he was archbishop between 1969 and 2002) and in the Episcopal Conference. Díaz Merchán was president of the Spanish bishops between 1981 (at the height of the 23F) and 1987, and was able to reach historic agreements with Felipe González's PSOE. The most relevant, and which still stands today, was the famous (and controversial) Church Income box.
Díaz Merchán was the last living Spanish bishop of those who participated in the Second Vatican Council, and for decades he was one of the retaining dams of the Vatican restoration, until John Paul II managed to place first Ángel Suquía, and then Antonio María Rouco Varela, at the head of the Spanish Church. In fact, the Archbishop of Oviedo has been, to date, the only president of the EEC who has not been a cardinal, in what many see as a sort of punishment by Rome for his progressivism.
Because Díaz Merchán wanted to facilitate dialogue between the Church and society, at a time when the re-Christianization of Spain was beginning to become strong and groups that today dominate Catholicism in our country (propagandists, Opus Dei, Legionnaires, neocatechumenals and others) flourished under the patronage of the Polish Pope. The Archbishop of Oviedo spoke out in favor of the protests of the Asturian miners, he locked himself in the cathedral with them, negotiated with unions and employers and always kept the door open with all political groups, to the point of being considered a red bishop .
His role was fundamental when it came to supporting Tarancón in defending a new political order after the death of the dictator, and he unapologetically assumed the arrival of the first socialist government. After his departure in 1987 from the presidency of the Episcopal Conference, the bishops began a stage of opposition to González and unwavering support for the subsequent Aznar government, which ended in 2004-05 with the first demonstrations against same-sex marriage and the subject created by Zapatero of Education for the Citizenship that had the participation of bishops, sponsored by Rouco Varela. Díaz Merchán was always against them. A memory that connects with the current situation in which, in just a week, there is the fear of seeing miters again in a rally against a socialist Executive (this time, on account of abortion).
In addition to Díaz Merchán, this week the life of another historic prelate has been claimed, Antonio Montero, the first archbishop of Extremadura and teacher of journalists. Montero, who also participated in the Second Vatican Council, was another of those who resisted the involution of the Wojtylian Church. Of that generation, Ramón Buxarrais is barely alive, the bishop who renounced the miter to go live in Melilla to work with prisoners and migrants. Remains of a progressive Church that, paradoxically, seems doomed to disappear in the time of another Pope, Francis, who seeks to vindicate the Council and the poor.
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