Spanish PM talks crisis with Pope Francis

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday became the first European leader to meet with Pope Francis, with the Vatican saying the two discussed the country's steep economic crisis.

Spanish PM talks crisis with Pope Francis
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy gave Pope Francis a Spain jersey during a private audience in the pontiff's library. Photo: Alessandra Tarantino/AFP

Talks focused on the economic crisis "that Spain is facing along with other European countries, which has provoked a grave employment crisis that involves many families, particularly the young," the Vatican said in a statement.

The role of the Roman Catholic Church in helping those most in need in Spain through charities like Cáritas was underlined during the talks.

Rajoy, a conservative who has been under fire for months over corruption allegations, also talked about the political situation in Spain with the new Argentine pope.

The two "reaffirmed the need for a dialogue in society and between all its components, based on mutual respect and taking into account values including justice and solidarity in a search for the common good," the Vatican said.

The statement added that the two men had discussed "the institution of marriage and the family and the importance of a religious education".

The Vatican is fiercely opposed to a Spanish law that allows same-sex marriages, passed under Rajoy's Socialist predecessor Jose Luis Zapatero.

The law also lets gay couples adopt children and inherit each others' property.

Polls show two-thirds of Spaniards back same-sex marriage.

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Vatican insists ex-envoy’s comments on Franco exhumation were ‘personal opinion’

The Vatican on Thursday said the former papal envoy to Madrid's criticism of plans to move dictator general Francisco Franco's remains were his personal opinion after Spain complained of "interference".

Vatican insists ex-envoy's comments on Franco exhumation were 'personal opinion'
Photo: AFP

Renzo Frattini quit his post after his comments drew sweeping criticism with Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo saying they were “absolutely unacceptable” and amounted to “interference” in “internal state affairs”.

“On the occasion of the definitive departure of Monsignor Renzo Frattini from Spain, we underline that his recent declarations on the exhumation of the mortal remains of Francisco Franco were made in a personal capacity,” said Alessandro Gisotti, the outgoing head of the Holy See press office.

Gisotti said the former papal envoy, who resigned last month, had also denied through the press “any intention of expressing an opinion on questions of internal politics”.

Franco, who ruled with an iron fist from the end of Spain's 1936-39 civil war until his death in 1975, is buried in an imposing mausoleum carved into a mountain at the Valley of the Fallen, outside Madrid. A 150-metre (500-feet) 
cross towers over the site.

Plans to exhume his body have caused bitter divisions in Spain.   

The Vatican had kept silent on the issue but in an interview last month Frattini said Spain's Socialist government had “resuscitated Franco” by stirring a public debate over its exhumation plans.

“It would be better to leave him in peace, most people, politicians, think this way because 40 years have passed since his death, he has done what he has done, God will judge,” Frattini had said.

The Vatican has not opposed the exhumation.

READ MORE: Spain complains over Vatican 'interference' in Franco exhumation plan