On June 29, the phone rang at the headquarters of the Spanish Episcopal Conference. On the other hand, the Royal House confirmed the invitation that the 11th spokesman bishop of the EEC, Luis Argüello, had made to the kings to attend the funeral for the victims of the coronavirus that the Church was going to celebrate this July 6 in the La Almudena cathedral. The Church had been ahead of Pedro Sánchez when calling an act of tribute to the dead, aware that the idea of the Government was a secular tribute, something unprecedented in the history of Spanish democracy.
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The Prime Minister had announced in Congress that, once the 'new normal' had been reached, there would be a state tribute to the fallen, chaired by Felipe VI ... but without specifying a date. It did not do so until June 17, when there were barely four days left until the end of the Alarm State. Six days earlier the bishops had rushed to send theirs for a mass in La Almudena. Although, to tell the truth, without much success.
Until the morning of June 29, the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, had barely confirmed their attendance; and the mayor of the capital, José Luis Martínez Almeida. The bishops had sent an invitation to all the powers of the State (presidents of the Congress and Senate, those responsible for the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, heads of the General Staff, Government Delegation and the Executive itself), as well as representatives of political parties, unions and employers. Only Díaz Ayuso, Almeida and the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, had announced their attendance at an event that was coming decaffeinated, and that was not going to be broadcast on public television. "It is not necessary. In addition, the bishops already have their own television," a RTVE official told elDiario.es.
But the yes of the Royal House changed everything. A confirmation that few in the House of the Church took for sure and that was due, to a large extent, to the efforts of the military archbishop, Juan del Río, who has direct ties to Zarzuela. The decision of the king to attend, with his wife and daughters, funerals - properly speaking, one should not speak of a funeral, but rather a mass in memory of the deceased - Catholics was something that the Government had as a possibility, but according to sources of the Executive did not know until shortly before on Friday morning, July 3, the Episcopal Conference announced its attendance. Two hours later, elDiario.es announced that the Government would be represented by the First Vice President of the Government, Carmen Calvo, in charge of relations with the Church.
From there the confirmations happened. “The truth is that since Friday, when the kings confirmed their attendance, there was an avalanche of requests or notifications that had been sent on June 11. Only from there they began to answer, "said the secretary general of the Episcopal Conference, Luis Argüello, at a press conference on Wednesday. And they did it in cascade: the presidents of Congress and the Senate, the spokesmen for Ciudadanos and Vox, the government delegation in Madrid, the presidents of the Supreme and the Constitutional Court, representatives of the Armed Forces ... in total, more than thirty of authorities that, together with many other bishops, those responsible for NGOs, health professionals and different groups, along with some 70 representatives of the victimsso many stayed out- were part of the act.
A funeral that shouldn't be
Although it was not a state funeral, the truth is that it seemed. The presence of the kings served as a justification for the Catholic extreme right to criticize the absence of Pedro Sánchez, Pablo Iglesias or the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa. They even begged to accuse the Prime Minister of insulting the dead, although they said nothing that the leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal, or that of Ciudadanos, Inés Arrimadas, did not attend. Not to mention the attacks on RTVE for not broadcasting the event live. Finally, there was a semi-direct on the 24-hour channel, which broadcast the full mass on its internet channel, which could also be seen on Telemadrid.
On the other hand, many understood that the ceremony in La Almudena presided over by the Kings - and for this reason also had the presence of the rest of representatives of State powers - largely boycotted the great act-tribute that the State prepares for this July 16 in the Plaza de la Armería -a few meters from the cathedral of Madrid-, ten days after the Catholic funeral. Even within the Executive there is a feeling that the bishops have taken the lead in a bad way, with the collaboration of Felipe VI, who has joined the plans of the Episcopal Conference due to his personal will or his relations with the ecclesial leadership, or inspired by the unwritten rule of 'it has always been done this way'. Be one thing or the other, the reality is that the presence of the Royal House at mass shows that Spain, despite being formally a non-denominational state for almost half a century, continues to strongly feel the institutional weight of the Catholic Church.
Despite the fact that the new leadership of the Episcopal Conference has inaugurated a stage marked by the "fluid" relationship with the Government, through Vice President Calvo, it is not easy for the bishops to renounce the privileges and social relevance that they have had historically. And even though they have been shown ready to discuss controversial issues with the Executive like enrollment or IBI regulation, they do not give up on battles also pending such as the subject of Religion or euthanasia. During the homily - and after it - it was all words of agreement and understanding. The representatives of the ultra-conservative sector who were present - including the Bishop of Alcalá, Reig Plá, and the illustrious Rouco Varela - remained silent, unlike what had happened during the confinement.
"We very much appreciate the presence of all those who have wanted to participate in a unique event proper to the Catholic Church, which always has an atrium in which we are ready to meet whoever we want," said spokesman Argüello, who avoided any criticism of the absence of Sánchez or Iglesias to the event. Was not necessary to. For this, the media apparatus of the ultra-Catholic world had already been mobilized. The Episcopal Conference has been invited - and has already confirmed that it will attend - to the event on the 16th, while it has been "grateful" to those who attended the cathedral's funeral. The funeral that really shouldn't be.
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