And so the long shadow of the Spanish Civil War is still very much in evidence, at least as far as Catholic politics is concerned. One of the peculiarities of the Franco regime was that, while in general institutional Catholicism became a prop of the regime, sometimes by default and sometimes enthusiastically, as usual the Basque provinces went their own way. The Basque church was renowned as a hotbed of nationalism before the Civil War, and was no less so after it, which caused the Generalissimo no end of headaches.
This resurfaced back in 2007 with the Vatican’s mass beatification of Catholics killed by the Republicans during the Civil War, something that would have gladdened the hearts of surviving Franquistas. Noticeably excluded were fourteen Basque priests executed by the fascists. The “red priests” have long been a source of embarrassment to top Catholics in Madrid, so this probably wasn’t surprising.
It’s heartening news, therefore, that the four Basque bishops, apparently on their own initiative, are to hold a joint service on the 11th July to honour these forgotten martyrs. And so there will finally be formal recognition for Martín Lecuona, Gervasio Albizu, José Adarraga, José Ariztimuño Aitzol, José Sagarna, Alejandro Mendicute, José Otano, José Joaquín Arín, Leonardo Guridi, José Marquiegui, José Ignacio Peñagaricano, Celestino Olaindia, Jorge Iturricastillo and Román de San José.
About time too, I say. It’s nice to see the Church do the right thing, even if the combined forces of Madrid and the Vatican mean the Basque church has to operate on its own recognisance. What’s more, this will greatly annoy not only the Franco nostalgics but also the broader constituency in the Spanish state who have never let the sun go down on their antipathy to the Basques. Which can only be for the best.