After more than 24 hours of intense debate over the attendance by some 600 people at the Sagrada Familia for the celebration of the beatification of Joan Roig Diggle, a 19-year-old who was killed by anarchist militia at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the archdiocese of Barcelona apologized, expressed its bewilderment at the response of the authorities and, to top it off, requested that the world of culture and the restaurant industry be re-opened as fast as possible. The event, which was attended by about fifteen bishops, was presided over by cardinal Joan Josep Omella, and among those present were two figures from Barcelona city council - one of them the deputy mayor in charge of public order, Albert Batlle - as well as a representative of the Catalan government.
It was certainly an unjustifiable and reckless act. It is not a question of whether the safety measures were respected nor the right to worship which believers of all faiths possess and which is clearly established under the current state of alarm. It was not a normal religious mass, but a special event, hence the attendance by about fifteen bishops as well as authorities from the Barcelona and Catalan administrations. It is these special acts that are prohibited and are affected equally by the law whether the occasion in question is a football match, a theatrical performance or a church wedding. The act does not differ at all from the dinner held in Madrid a couple of weeks ago with the attendance of four government ministers, as well as other civil and military authorities, adding up to the presence of 150 people.
As in that case, we are talking about setting a necessary example in response to a pandemic which is taking thousands of lives in our country and ruining the lives of many groups who are losing their jobs, seeing their lifelong businesses disappear and who are, at best, registered for ERTO furlough payments which just don't seem to arrive. For people to be given special privileges in these circumstances - because that is what it was, since the right to the beatification mass could have been satisfied in a small-scale act, although that would have watered it down, or by waiting for better times - is a discouraging message.
The Catalan government has announced the beginning of proceedings and has been quick to state that it will ask the Procicat committee to limit the maximum gathering size allowed to 100 people. A measure that should have been taken before the controversy as, after what happened at the VIP dinner in Madrid, it was only a matter of time before it happened here. One last question. It is valid to punish the bishops who left their municipalities to be at the Sagrada Família in Barcelona during the weekend boundary closure, which was in force from 6am Friday to 6am Monday? Was it really a duty of their jobs, an essential service, when all they did was to be present with the archbishop, and when, all by himself, he could still have celebrated the same mass?