Bishop Xavier Novell of Solsona, who is the youngest prelate in Spain, said on Oct. 17 that if the region of Catalonia forms an independent state, the Holy See could consider the creation of a Catalan Bishops’ Conference.
According to Europa Press, Bishop Novell told local reporters that “if Catalonia were an independent country, it would affect the Catalan Catholic Church because this country would probably want to have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and the Holy See would probably have to consider the possibility of creating an Episcopal Conference for the new country.”
He also said independence would affect the financing of the Church in Catalonia, because currently tax revenue goes through the Spanish Treasury, which then provides funds to the Spanish Bishops’ Conference. The conference by an agreement between all the bishops of Spain then distributes the money proportionately to each diocese.
Artur Mas, the governor of the Catalonia region, will be up for re-election on Nov. 25. If he wins, the politician is promising to hold a vote sometime during his four-year term on whether or not the region should split away from Spain. The move is tied primarily to the financial woes of the country.
Bishop Novell said the Church “must respect what citizens democratically decide, as long as they respect the fundamental rights of the person.”
“The Church does not have a preordained choice regarding the political organization of a country. Therefore, what citizens democratically decide will have to recognized because our mission is not to politically organize society, but to help people to find meaning in life,” the bishop said.
Bishop Novell also criticized some of his fellow bishops for being too political. “The Church should not be political, and the latest statements by my brother bishops in Spain (regarding national unity) are an intrusion into politics,” he said.
“I am accused of intruding as well, but I am merely pointing out the rights that citizens have to choose from among all the legitimate options,” he added.
In a Sept.9 homily at the Cathedral of Solsona, Bishop Novell defended the cause of Catalan independence and said, “It is perfectly morally legitimate to be in favor independence for Catalonia, and therefore Catholics who wish to are free to be supporters of independence.”
Bishop Novell’s criticism of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference was over a message issued on Oct. 4 in which the bishops expressed their concern about “political proposals aimed at the unilateral breakup” of the country.
“None of the peoples or regions that form part of the Spanish State could be understood as they are today if they had not formed part of the long history of cultural and political unity of that ancient nation that is Spain,” the bishops said.
“The good of unity, as well as that of the rich diversity of the peoples of Spain, should be preserved,” they stated.