April 13, 2021

Why does not the Pope travel to Spain?

Why does not the Pope travel to Spain?

There was a time when the Pontiffs did not leave the Vatican. From 1870, with the fall of the Papal States, the voluntary confinement of the highest leaders of Catholicism was forged in tradition. But there was a Pope who decided to break with her. It was Paul VI, in his effort to open the Church to the world. In 1964 he decided to go abroad and during his papacy he visited the five continents, with special affection for Asia.

John Paul II picked up the baton and took it so seriously that he was nicknamed "The Traveling Pope." He made 104 pastoral trips outside of Italy and placed Spain as a priority in his agenda. He was the first to visit us. During his pontificate, he did so five times and, afterwards, Benedict XVI decided to keep it as a priority destination. He came three times, determined to recover what was once a Catholic bastion. For this reason, in 2011, he chose Madrid as the site of the World Youth Day (WYD), one of the most multitudinous acts of the Church. But with the arrival of Francisco the Vatican broke with this dynamic. The so-called "Pope of the peripheries" has preference for countries with problems which can help solve, such as Cuba, Bolivia and Bosnia.

However, it is striking that having visited and neighboring countries, Bergoglio does not want to step on Spanish soil. It has gone through France and Portugal (in fact, its capital, Lisbon, has been chosen as a destination for the next WYD) and, soon, it will be for Morocco. But Spain is not yet in its forecasts. On Sunday, on his trip to the Arab Emirates (the 27th of his pontificate), he commented with laughter that for that to be feasible, "you must first agree." He did not clarify who he was referring to. If the Episcopal Conference, the Government, or both.

If there was a favorable occasion it was in 2015 on the occasion of the Fifth Centenary of the Death of Saint Teresa, a figure of vital importance in Catholicism. To this anniversary, considered by the Government as a "State project", Francisco was formally invited by the Administration and the bishopric of Avila. At that time, a lot of work was done to bring him and to preside over the closing ceremony of the centenary. But nothing served. "The offer has always been permanent," affirms in this regard the former secretary and spokesman of the Episcopal Conference, José María Gil Tamayo, now bishop of Ávila. In declarations to LA RAZÓN, he details that a week after his ordination he traveled to the Vatican together with the mayor of Avila, José Luis Rivas, to deliver to the Pope a memory of the Teresian Jubilee Year. That was when Gil Tamayo insisted again: "I told him, Holy Father, the invitation is still open, and he laughed." On the last words Bergoglio on the matter, Gil Tamayo is prudent: "I have no idea what he wanted to say, maybe it was a way out of his."

For Fernando Prado, author of "La fuerza de la vocación", a book interview with Pope Francisco, "we are looking three feet to the cat to this statement". He believes that what happens with Spain is the same as with Argentina, his homeland, where he does not plan to go either: "In both countries, society is very polarized." Prado, believes that can refer to there is a lack of agreement between Church and State, which adds that the relations between the two institutions are not at their best. "Maybe, is that there is no clarity in the invitation and this has to have the support of the two estates." We must also take into account the open controversy with the exhumation of Franco from the Valley of the Fallen. "Maybe a visit now could be misinterpreted", says the one who is also director of Claretian Publications. In his last conversation with Francisco, he details that he did not address this issue, although he assures that "he is very well informed of what is happening in Spain, of the political-social situation, of the nationalisms … and, right now, our country is not a special concern for him taking into account what is happening in Venezuela or the Philippines ".

On the hypotheses that circulate about Francisco's refusal to visit Spain, clarifies that in the Episcopal Conference there is no clear division around his figure: "The bishops are very much in agreement about the fundamental thing, although there are means that insist on saying otherwise, there is no contrary to it, although there are resistances as in all institutions. "On the critical voices with the Spanish Church for paralyzing the reforms, he explains that these changes" are a very heavy elephant. They are welcoming, but slowly. "


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