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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen

The Spanish government on Tuesday approved a special fund to exhume graves at the Valley of the Fallen, where thousands of victims of the Spanish Civil War and dictator Francisco Franco are buried.

Spain to exhume bodies of civil war victims at Valley of the Fallen
Women hold up pictures of their fathers and relatives, who were condemned to death during Franco’s dictatorship. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP

The Socialist government said it had set aside €665,000 ($780,000) to exhume some 33,000 victims whose remains lie behind a vast basilica near Madrid.

Franco was buried in the basilica when he died in 1975 but his remains were removed in 2019 and transferred to a discreet family plot on the outskirts of the capital.

Government spokesperson Maria Jesus Montera told reporters that more than 60 families and international institutions had called for the exhumation of the victims to give relatives who suffered during the civil war and Franco’s dictatorship “moral reparation”.

Campaigners estimate more than 100,000 victims from the war and its aftermath remain buried in unmarked graves across Spain —- a figure, according to Amnesty International, only exceeded by Cambodia.

Human remains discovered during exhumation works carried out by the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory of Valladolid, in a mass grave where the bodies of hundreds of people were dumped during the Spanish civil war. Photo by CESAR MANSO/AFP

Built between 1940 and 1958 partly by the forced labour of political prisoners, the imposing basilica and the mausoleum of the Valley of the Fallen was initially intended for those who had fought for Franco.

But in 1959 the remains of many Republican opponents were moved there from cemeteries and mass graves across the country without their families being informed.

The crypts and ossuaries where some of the victims are buried are inaccessible as they were walled off at the time.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has made the rehabilitation of the victims of the Franco era one of his priorities since coming to power in 2018.

As well as the Valley of the Fallen, his government is also focusing on identifying remains founds in mass graves across Spain.