Nuns defy Vatican to follow political calling

A couple of Catalan nuns are defying the Vatican and even the Spanish government by throwing their wimples into Spain's political arena.

Nuns defy Vatican to follow political calling
Television sensation Sister Lucia appearing at a campaign meeting in Barcelona on May 20th. Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

Not content to spend their days praying in the cloistered surroundings of their convents far removed from the world of politics outside its door, two sisters from Catalonia have decided to get in on the act.

Despite belonging to a closed order, Dominican nun Lucía Caram rarely stays behind the convent walls. The television regular pops up on everything from morning chat shows to her own programme on Spain’s cooking channel, in which she teaches viewers to make traditional recipes including Argentinian empanadas.  

“I’m convinced that food unites people, that it makes a family, it makes a community and after dinner conversation calms people, helping them to share what they carry in their hearts and to transform our world,” Sister Lucia told Catalan daily La Vanguardia. 

She also likes to wade in on political issues, making no secret of the fact that she supports Catalan independence and gets on well with Catalan president Artur Mas, strongly endorsing his Convergence and Union coalition.

She also urged her 186,000 Twitter followers not to vote for Ada Colau, a Barcelona mayoral candidate stemming from Spain’s “indignados” movement.

But now Vatican officials are trying to force the nun to give up her media life. She has received a verbal warning from the Vatican’s ambassador to Spain that her constant media exposure is incompatible with her religious life.

Caram’s convent is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Vic, Romà Casanova, known to be one of the more conservative voices within the Spanish Catholic Church. Catalan daily La Vanguardia reported that within religious circles, it is well known that Bishop Casanova does not approve of Sister Caram’s high profile life.

The Spanish government in Madrid has also been accused of taking a stance against Sister Caram, with Catalan President Artur Mas saying that it did not surprise him that “the Spanish state was in the middle of things” concerning the nun.

But Sister Caram is steadfastly refusing to bow down to pressure from the Church hierarchy to shut up; she appeared at a political rally on Wednesday May 20th with Mas and Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias.

During the rally she said that she was merely “following her vocation to be a 'monja cojonera' or a pain in the arse of a nun,” according to La Vanguardia.

Amazingly, she is not the only Barcelona-based nun who is defying the Vatican. On the opposite side of the political fence to Sister Caram is Sister Teresa Forcades, a Harvard educated Benedictine nun who has become a surprising leader of the anti-establishment.

Sister Teresa Forcades. Photo: AFP

Sister Forcades, a ferocious supporter of left-wing mayoral candidate Ada Colau. has even gone so far as to say she will temporarily abandon religious life in favour of running for political office in Catalonia’s regional elections in September. 

She announced this week that she would stand as for regional president in the September elections on the Procés Constituent a Catalunya platform that she co-founded in 2011, taking a sabbatical from the convent but not giving up her calling completely.

“There's a possibilty I can get leave from the convent for a year or possibly two. This would mean stopping being a nun only temporarily. After a year or two, I could then go back to the convent,” she said in an open letter written to her supporters this week. 

Her anti-austerity platform has much in common with Podemos and she is also a strong advocate for an independent Catalonia.

If a scruffy ponytailed university lecturer can rise from nothing to become the voice of disaffected Spain, is it so farfetched to imagine a nun in a habit taking political office? 


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Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?

Around 10,000 people demonstrated against the expansion of the El Prat airport in Barcelona on Sunday.

Why has the expansion of Barcelona airport prompted mass protests?
People march during a demonstration against the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo: Pau BARRENA / AFP

Several ecological and agricultural organisations, have demanded that the expansion be stopped due to the fact nearby wetlands and farms would have to be destroyed.

The demonstration took place on Calle Tarragona in the Catalan capital between Plaça d’Espanya and Plaça dels Països Catalans.

The protests still took place, even though last week, Spain suspended the €1.7 billion airport expansion project, citing differences with the Catalan government, after president Pere Aragonès said he wanted to avoid destroying La Ricarda lagoon, a natural reserve next to the airport. 

Environmentalists decided not to call off the march, in case plans for the airport expansion still went ahead.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about Barcelona airport’s €1.7 billion planned expansion

Political representatives from ERC, En Comú Podem and the CUP also attended, as well as the leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón; the Deputy Mayor for Ecology of the Barcelona City Council, Janet Sanz, and the Mayor of El Prat de Llobregat, Lluís Mijoler.

People from neighbourhoods across the city marched towards Calle Tarragona and could be seen holding placards that read Nature yes, airport no and shouting slogans such as “More courgettes and fewer planes” and “Fighting for the climate, health, and life”. 

One of the largest groups of people were those from El Prat de Llobregat, the municipality which is home to the airport, who were led by tractors. 

People march during a demonstration against the expansion of Barcelona-El Prat airport. Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP

In addition to protesting against the expansion of the El Prat airport, people were also demonstrating against the Winter Olympic Games in the Pyrenees and extensions to airports in Mallorca and Madrid. 

A representative of Zeroport, Sara Mingorría said “We are here to defend not only La Ricarda, but the entire Delta”. 

The philosopher Marina Garcés also argued that the expansion of the airport would mean “more borders, more mass tourism, more control and more precarious jobs.” 

The leader of the commons in the Catalan parliament, Jéssica Albiach, who also attended the protest, asked the PSOE for “coherence”: “You cannot be passing a law against climate change and, at the same time, defend the interests of Aena [the airport operations company]”, she said. 

She also urged the leader of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, to “definitely say no. 

If the airport expansion in Barcelona goes ahead, environmentalists say that CO2 emissions would rise by a minimum of 33 percent. These levels would surpass the limits set by the Catalan government’s climate targets.