SPAIN’S deputy prime minister plans to travel to the Vatican on Monday in a possible bid to enlist the support of the Roman Catholic Church in its efforts to exhume and rebury the remains of dictator Francisco Franco.
Socialist government prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, has pledged to remove Franco’s body from the Valley of the Fallen in Madrid, where he has lain since 1975.
The mass grave, partly built by captured republicans and political prisoners, contains the remains of more than 30,000 people who fought on both sides of the war.
But only two graves are marked, Franco’s and that of the founder of the Falangist party, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera.
The move is aimed at closing wounds, but the dictator’s family deeply opposes the exhumation.
Although the government can have Franco’s remains moved, the family want his remains to be reinterned at the capital’s Almudena Cathedral, which is close to the royal palace.
The government fears this would make Franco’s grave more accessible and could turn the cathedral into a pilgrimage site for the far right. Ministers would prefer a less high-profile location.
The deputy prime minister, Carmen Calvo said there will be many issues to discuss when she meets the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
And added that while Franco was a dictator, ‘they are human remains and only his family can take charge of them or decide where they should go’.
The government had undertaken to exhume Franco to comply with both Spain’s historical memory law and with UN reports ‘so that Franco is not in a state tomb in a public place where he is glorified as a dictator’.
Thousands of people reportedly gathered outside the Almudena Cathedral on Thursday to protest against Franco’s possible burial there.