Departing Spanish Government Proposes Exhuming Franco if Church Gives Consent

Valley of the Fallen

Departing Spanish Government Proposes Exhuming Franco if Church Gives Consent
Jáuregui requests the Rajoy government, “Please do not stash this report in a drawer”
El País: El Gobierno en funciones propone exhumar a Franco si lo autoriza la Iglesia
Natalia Junquera reporting from Madrid November 29, 2011

Thirty-six years after Franco’s death, the departing government yesterday proposed lifting the 1500 kg granite gravestone under which he is interred, exhuming his remains, and submitting them to his family. So recommended a commission of experts which presidential minister Ramón Jáuregui, six months before the election, charged with creating a plan to make the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen) something different from what Franco intended it to be: a monument to himself and his victory in the Civil War. But it would be difficult to complete this task because of another condition the commission established for the removal of the dictator from the mausoleum: the authorization of the Catholic Church.

The Church was invited to the commission, but at the final hour, the Cardinal of Madrid, Antonio María Rouco Varela, retired his representative there, Archbishop Emeritus of Pamplona and Tudela, Fernando Sebastián. When asked about the movement of Franco’s remains, the episocopal conference referred the question to the Archbishop of Madrid, whose spokesman responded, “We have no comment.” The anthropologist Francisco Ferrándiz, a member of the commission, believes it is possible the Church will give its authorization: “if it opposes despite the government’s desire to remove [the remains], the Church would become the dictator’s custodian.”

Another indispensable and insuperable condition is the consent of the Popular Party, which would have to spend at least 13 million euros to “make the premises decent.” “I request that the Mariano Rajoy administration please not stash this report in a drawer,” Jáuregui pleaded yesterday in La Moncloa after presenting the signatures of the presidents of the commission, Virgilio Zapatero (president of philosophy and law) and Pedro González-Trevijano (rector of King Juan Carlos I).

The two met recently with the dictator’s daughter. Carmen Franco assured them that her father had never said he wanted to be buried in the Valley of the Fallen and that the decision was made by the Arias-Navarro goverment. In any case, she asked the commission that the remains of her father remain where they are. In the understanding of the commission, however, the wishes of the family, as opposed to those of the Church, are not binding.

An important group in the commission has been convinced from the first that it would be impossible for the Valley of the Fallen to have any other meaning without moving Franco’s remains to another location, as this newspaper wrote in June. Ultimately, three experts (González-Trevijano, Herrero y Rodríguez de Milón, and Feliciano Barrios) redacted a private vote against the exhumation of the dictator because they thought it would “contribute to dividing and radicalizing public opinion.” This is the only point over which there is not unanimity. But the meetings have been long. “All day, sometimes,” Ferrándiz admits. No member of the commission has received monetary renumeration.

Emilio Silva, president of the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory, believes the government can do without the authorization of the church. “It would be like if a hospital with a chapel asked for permission from an episcopal conference to operate.” He doesn’t believe the plan will be brought to fruition. Nor does the State Federation of Forums for the Recovery of Memory, which on the anniversary of the death of the dictator gathered in front of the Valley of the Fallen with a girl dressed up as Franco who said, “I see that I left everything tied up, and tied up well.” It also asked: “Why doesn’t the government do what Angela Merkel did in Germany some months ago: demolish the tomb of Hitler’s lieutenant, incinerate his remains, and throw them in the Baltic so the place wouldn’t become a site for Neo-Nazi pilgrimage?”

The removal of Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen would be consolation for the family members of Republicans buried there without the families’ consent and which want to recover their remains. The forensic scientist Francisco Etxeberria corroborated with a petition by the families that the crypts have deteriorated; according to two other forensic scientists sent by the government, it is now practically impossible to make individual indentifications of remains.

The commission, even so, recommends the government “dignify” the cemetery of the Valley of the Fallen, the largest communal grave of Franquismo, where nearly 34,000 people are entombed. The cemetary would become public, and a “meditation center” would be established in the area so family members who do not profess to the Catholic faith can feel “comfortable”, according to Virgilio Zapatero.

Explore posts in the same categories: Politics, Religion, Spain, Translations

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