The Government accepts that the great temples are all of the Church
The Government and the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) yesterday sealed an agreement on the assets registered by the Church. After months of negotiations, both parties issued a joint statement stating that, based on the list sent by the Government to the Congress of Deputies on the assets registered by the Catholic Church In the period 1998-2015, the Episcopal Conference has made an exhaustive study of it through timely consultations made to the dioceses of the entire country. “This study has consisted of the cataloging of the assets, their division by diocese and verification of the registration processes in each of the aforementioned assets,” explains the note.
From this analysis, the Church has verified that nearly a thousand assets (965 of almost 35,000) “are owned by a third party or do not have ownership over it.”
But it does not give up or return that ownership, ecclesiastical sources consulted by this newspaper insist, because – they add, contradicting the official version that was extracted from Moncloa yesterday – «the Church in no case would be the one who has wrongly registered any property. In this case, it would be the property records that have considered bad management to be good. The Government’s slap on the wrist should be to that malpractice executed, never to the person who is going to register the assets. The complete list of assets has been provided to the Government by the EEC and was prepared before Christmas, but the Executive, the same sources affect, postponed the staging of the agreement until yesterday, with Pedro Sanchez to the head.
Most of these assets are rural estates, cemeteries and land next to ecclesiastical properties; There are also, according to the same sources, “churches that the Episcopal Conference has found, when requesting the data from each diocese throughout the 2021 financial year, that lie under the waters of a swamp, or chapels that are already covered by a highway”.
From that complete list offered by the Episcopal Conference and published yesterday in its entirety on its website (an exercise that, according to reliable sources, felt very bad in Sánchez’s environment), the stone now remains on the roof of the Government, which will be the one who have to initiate the processes of regularization of these poorly registered assets, most of them (435 of the 965) in small municipalities of Castilla y León. The plaintiffs, whether individuals or municipalities, can now sue the goods and prove their ownership with proof of biennial registration.
The Church, at the disposal of the Government
The mechanism that, therefore, is put in place at this point is that the Government is the one who must contact local entities, through the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces (FEMP), to review the registration files. of each of those farms and properties that were registered incompletely or defectively. “The Church expresses its commitment to collaboration in order to facilitate such processes,” both parties said yesterday.
According to government data, between 1998 and 2015 the Catholic Church registered 34,961 goods using a decree of the first Government of José María Aznar. A formula through which only an ecclesiastical certification was needed. This inventory of nearly 35,000 properties began to be drawn up as a result of a PSOE initiative in Congress in 2017. It was in February 2021, less than a year ago, when the Ministry of the Presidency published the list. More than half, 20,014 properties, are defined as places of worship. While 14,947 have other destinations. It is from this list, and very focused on the second group of properties, that the Church has carried out a diocese-by-diocese analysis that has resulted in the first number of 965 properties: 502 rural properties and 151 urban properties; there are also 179 places of worship, 98 dwellings, and 28 cemeteries.
It is, therefore, 2.76% of the total properties that were part of the set of unregistered assets inventoried by the Episcopal Conference during 2021. “The Church was unaware that these assets were registered in its name; it publishes them and makes them known”, say ecclesiastical sources.
The great temples are beyond any doubt. According to the same sources, “Sánchez’s Executive has punctured the bone because it already has accredited that neither the cathedral-mosque of Córdoba, nor the cathedral of Seville, that of Santiago de Compostela, Burgos, Toledo or Zaragoza they are wrongly registered and belong to the Catholic Church». The window that is opening at this time, these sources suggest, is that the Government of Pedro Sánchez tries to modify the Law of Historical-Artistic Heritage to articulate a mechanism that modifies the ownership (for public use) of these great places of worship in Spain .
The Government wanted to stage its agreement with the Church yesterday with the meeting that the President of the Government himself had requested from the President of the Episcopal Conference, who attended the headquarters of the CEE on Añastro Street in Madrid accompanied by the Minister of the Presidency, Felix Bolanos. The president, he said, thus put the finishing touch to a process that the government initiated with the help of former vice president Carmen Calvo and that involved controversy over the ownership of the Cordoba mosque. This process was resumed last August when Bolaños assumed responsibility for relations with religious congregations. A few days ago, Bolaños and Omella were the ones holding a meeting to finalize the agreement. From that meeting, the minister left saying that “they had advanced a lot in the negotiations”; also that it did not close other points that are on the table, such as the one that affects the fiscal sphere.
Anger over non-return
According to the same sources, however, Sánchez left the meeting very angry for not having been able to sign that the Church “improperly appropriated” some assets that now “has to be returned”, an extreme that is not the case. As an anecdote, they underline that the Archbishop of Barcelona prayed with Sánchez at the meeting, which took place with cordiality and firmness in the positions.
Precisely Omella assured through a video that in the meeting there was a desire for “collaboration for the common good.” He explained that several social issues were addressed, such as poverty, immigration and the consequences of the pandemic, in addition to others in which they “diverge a little more”: abortion, euthanasia and education. “I think it has been a very nice moment of rapprochement for this collaboration,” he said. The Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference, Monsignor Luis Arguello, he referred, for his part, to the culmination of the work of reviewing unregistered assets. “We have also talked about the future of the work to be carried out, especially in the matter of the tax regime, which has been very well channeled,” he admitted.