ROME – After Spain’s national government used security forces to try to stop a secessionist referendum in the Catalonia region that Madrid had declared unconstitutional and illegal, members of the local Church condemned the violence that unfolded on Sunday as a “deplorable” event.
Cardinal Juan José Omella, of Barcelona, the putative capital of an independent Catalonia, said, “We have to find a peaceful and democratic way out of the situation we’re living.
“The situation of violence that was lived today in Catalonia is deplorable,” he added, according to COPE, the radio of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference.
Omella concluded by commending all to “the God of peace.”
According to the regional government, over 800 people were wounded on Sunday, as they clashed with the national security forces who had the order not to allow people to cast their votes. However, all across Catalonia people turned out defiantly to vote in a referendum deemed illegal by the constitutional court and by the central government in the capital, Madrid.
On Sunday after midnight, Catalan officials claimed that preliminary results of the poll showed 90 percent of the 2.26 million who voted were in favor of independence. The region has 5.3 million registered voters. According to the spokesman of the regional government, the numbers didn’t include the ballots confiscated by Spanish police.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, on the other hand, said in a televised address after poll stations were closed that no referendum took place.
The European Commission sent out a statement condemning the violence, saying that it can never be an instrument in politics. They also wrote that the body believes these are times “for unity and stability, not for division and fragmentation,” and supported Rajoy in the claim that the referendum wasn’t legal according to the Spanish constitution.
Before the referendum took place, the regional government had committed to unilaterally declaring the independence of Catalonia “within 48 hours.” This would not only mean the region would leave Spain, but also the European Union and the United Nations.
In order to be legitimate, the independence declaration must be followed by recognition from the international community, and the new country must find its way back into the UN.
Archbishop Jaume Pujol, of Tarragona, went to Twitter to voice his concern, calling the violence “deplorable.”
In two virtually identical tweets, he said that “it’s necessary that the violence and the clashes stop now.”
Writing in Catalan, Pujol, president of the ‘Tarraconense [Catalonian] Bishops’ Conference, also called for a “peaceful and democratic” solution to the conflict.
On the other hand, the bishop of Solsona, Xavier Novell, kept his promise of voting, which he had issued in the diocesan website. After casting his vote, he posted an image of it on Twitter.