News from Europe

Barcelona cardinal holds Mass in defiance of government order

Ignoring a warning from the government of Catalonia, a Spanish cardinal led a funeral Mass last Sunday for the victims of COVID-19, hours after threatening to take “legal action” against civil authorities for the “arbitrariness” with which the right of religious freedom and worship is being treated.


Up until Friday, the archdiocese hoped the government of Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region would raise the ten-person cap for religious events that were announced on the 17th of July after the second wave of cases hit the region. This announcement came after the invitations for the funeral Mass had already been sent.

However, Cardinal Juan Jose Omella, the archbishop of Barcelona, argued that the cap was an arbitrary attack against religious freedom, a right protected by Spain’s constitution.

He said it was not justifiable to allow up to one thousand tourists at a time in the Basilica of the Holy Family, where the funeral Mass was held, but only ten people if they are attending a religious service.

“During the next few days, we will initiate the appropriate legal actions,” said a statement released by the archdiocese on Sunday, after it became evident the government wouldn’t relent on the limit for religious celebrations. Omella refused to rescind the invitations, which went to the family members of those who died, and the medical staff who were on the front lines during the crisis.

“It is a provision that seems unfair and discriminatory to us taking into account that we have been very careful and respectful in maintaining the sanitary regulations required for closed spaces,” Omella’s statement said.

Due to the lockdown restrictions imposed at the height of the pandemic in Spain, people were unable to attend the funeral services of their loved ones. Sunday’s ceremony was meant to allow people to grieve and have a proper goodbye. Spain reported 28,500 deaths due to the virus.


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