ROME – After the controversy a letter by Pope Francis to Mexico generated among right-wing politicians in Spain, the country’s bishops conference responded by inviting the leaders – and their followers – to read the pontiff’s page-long note and not the headlines around it.
Bishop Luis Argüello, Secretary General of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, said they were “perplexed” over the controversy during a press conference held in Madrid at the end of the meeting of the conference’s leadership.
“We have witnessed comments that we think have been made [in response to] a headline, without reading the document. It is not a long document. It is one page. It is addressed to the Church of Mexico, because it celebrates the 200th anniversary of its independence. Outside that context the document is not understood,” Argüello, who also serves as auxiliary bishop of Valladolid.
On the content of the letter, Argüello stressed that the Church, “in the task of evangelization, does things well and things badly.”
“What can the Spanish Church be proud of?” he asked, and then answered: “Of bringing a language and a religion to all of Ibero-America”.
Therefore, once again, the prelate expressed his surprise at “some astonishing editorial comments” that “give rise to statements from people who have read a headline and have not read a one-page letter.”
During the weekend, Francis sent a letter to Mexico for the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence from Spain. Several top-level, right-wing politicians went after the pope because he “apologized in the name of others.”
However, the pope’s letter was in line with what his predecessors have said on the issue: Not an apology for the Spanish conquest itself, but for the way the Catholic Church treated some indigenous peoples during the process. Francis has expressed his support of the evangelization of the America’s many times, including in 2015, when he canonized Spanish Franciscan Junipero Serra during his visit to the United States.
“For this reason, on various occasions, both my predecessors and I myself have asked forgiveness for personal and social sins, for all the actions or omissions that did not contribute to evangelization,” the pope wrote.
He was, in fact, more critical of the Mexican government, by tangentially mentioning the anti-clerical regime that ruled the country for most of the 20th century.
“In the same perspective, neither can we ignore the actions that, in more recent times, have been committed against the Christian religious sentiment of a large part of the Mexican people, causing profound suffering,” the pope’s message said.
According to several right-leaning Spanish newspapers, Francis “apologized for the conquest,” or “went after Spain” for it’s influence in the Americas.
“I do not quite understand what a Pope of Argentine nationality is doing apologizing on behalf of others,” said Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros, member of the Congress of Deputies for the Madrid constituency. Espinosa serves as spokesperson of the Vox Parliamentary Group in Congress
Similarly, the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, arguably the rising face of Europe’s “new right,” answering questions from reporters said: “I am surprised that a Catholic who speaks Spanish speaks this way about a legacy like ours, which was precisely to bring Spanish, and through the missions, Catholicism and, therefore, civilization and freedom to the American continent.”