Spanish PM Meets with Head of Country’s Bishops’ Conference

'We expressed the desire for collaboration between the two institutions, the State and the Church, for the common good, for the good of Spanish society,' explained Cardinal Omella.

Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez meets with Cardinal Juan José Omella Jan. 24, 2022.
Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez meets with Cardinal Juan José Omella Jan. 24, 2022. (photo: Courtesy photo / CEE)

MADRID, Spain — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez visited the president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Juan José Omella, on Monday to discuss a series of issues including the registered assets of the Catholic Church.

In the one hour meeting, Sánchez’ first visit to the conference’s headquarters, "we expressed the desire for collaboration between the two institutions, the State and the Church, for the common good, for the good of Spanish society,” explained Cardinal Omella.

“There are issues that affect us very directly, such as social issues, poverty, the suffering of many people because of this historical moment that we are living through, also because of the pandemic,” the Archbishop of Barcelona added.

The cardinal said that other issues they touched on that came up during the Jan. 24 conversation were medicine, life, abortion, euthanasia, freedom of conscience, housing, immigrants, and humanitarian corridors. 

Regarding migrants, the cardinal explained that Caritas and the parishes are already working to help them “for the good of society.”

“Then there are the other issues where we can diverge on a little more, not agree completely, which are the most moral issues, which affect morality the most, such as the issue of abortion and euthanasia,” he noted.

“We also touched on the issue of education. I believe that it is very important how the new generations are formed, with the whole issue of the difficulties encountered in the application of the Church-State accords on the subject of education, of religion,”  Cardinal Omella said.

“It was a very beautiful moment of rapprochement between the government's presidency and the president of the Episcopal Conference,” he concluded.

At the meeting Cardinal Omella handed Sánchez the book containing the study carried out by the Church on the list of registered assets covering the years 1998 to 2015 that the Government delivered to the Congress of Deputies.

A statement on the bishops’ website explains that “Recently, the capacity of the Church to possess material assets and to register them in the Registry of Property has been questioned. It has been said that the Church should not have so many assets and that its inclusion in the Registry of Property has been carried out fraudulently.” 

The statement further explains that in past centuries there was no question of what the Church owned. However, a controversy has arisen as to whether certain properties claimed by the Church are actually public property or vice versa.

Another statement notes that "out of the meeting held last August between the Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Cortes (Spanish Parliament) and Democratic Memory Law and the President of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, the work of the ‘ad hoc’ Committee set up between both parties has intensified within the dialogue between the Church and the Spanish State, on the matter relating to assets registered by the Catholic Church.”

The Church in Spain “in the context of dialogue with the Government, has made an exhaustive study of it through timely consultations with the dioceses.”

“This study has consisted in cataloging the assets, their division by diocese and verification of the registration processes in each of the aforementioned assets” from which it follows that approximately one thousand assets "the Church considers belonging to a third party, or there is no record of ownership of it.”

It is then expected that “the Government will inform local entities and registries of this information and the processes of regularization can thus be initiated wherever appropriate.”

“To this end, the Church expresses its commitment to collaboration in order to facilitate such processes,” the statement concludes.

Bishop Luis Argüello, general secretary of the bishops’ conference, said that the report delivered to the government will be made public through the conference website.

Bishop Argüello also stressed that, in general terms, “the Church offers the radical affirmation of human dignity and works for the common good.”

He said Monday's meeting was “satisfactory for both parties.”

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