"Vatican beatifies over 500 'martyrs of the faith' killed during Spanish civil war"
13 Oct 2013
"Mass beatification attended by 25,000 despite calls for pope to cancel event over church's support for General Francisco Franco"
"The Vatican on Sunday beatified more than 500 "martyrs of the faith" who were killed during the Spanish civil war, despite calls for the pope to cancel the event because of the Catholic church's support for General Francisco Franco.
The 1936-1939 conflict resulted in the victory of Franco's nationalist forces and a 40-year dictatorship that only ended with his death in 1975.
The mass beatification was attended by around 25,000 supporters of the church, among them 4,000 relatives of the victims, and took place amid tight security, with fears that the far-right would try to hijack the ceremony.
The Spanish Episcopal Conference, which organised the event, tries to avoid the term "civil war martyrs" because it argues that "these were not combatants, they were not armed. They died solely because they would not renounce their faith".
In perhaps the most controversial moment, Pope Francis made a televised address to the congregation, but failed to address the church's support for Franco. More than 100 support groups for victims of Franco's forces wrote an open letter to the pope last week, calling on him to apologise for the church's role, which they said helped to legitimise "the military uprising and the Franco dictatorship that claimed so many victims".
The killing of Catholics by republicans remains a highly controversial period in the modern history of Spain, and Sunday's event comes amid growing debate over how to address atrocities committed during the 20th century. Last month, a UN delegation called on Spain to open a full public investigation into those who died at the hands of Franco's henchmen, and to revoke an amnesty law passed in 1977 that prevents the prosecution of crimes committed before 1976.
Critics of the Catholic church argue that while it is happy to honour those killed by republicans, it has failed to address the far higher number of republicans who were murdered by Franco's forces."