July 4, 2019 / 3:08 PM / 15 days ago

Spain protests Vatican envoy's criticism of Franco reburial plan

FILE PHOTO: General view of the Valle de los Caidos (Valley of the Fallen), the mausoleum holding the remains of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, on the 43rd anniversary of his death in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, outside Madrid, Spain, November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain formally complained to the Vatican on Thursday after its ambassador criticized the Socialist government’s attempts to exhume the remains of dictator Francisco Franco and said it had achieved little but stoke divisions and “resuscitate Franco”.

Spain’s envoy to the Vatican delivered a letter from acting deputy prime minister Carmen Calvo to the secretary for relations with states of the Holy See, Richard Gallagher.

“It’s a formal act that took place today, the letter from the deputy prime minister was handed in along with a verbal statement. We hope the Vatican will answer,” acting Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell told reporters.

Last Sunday, two days before leaving his post, the Vatican’s Ambassador Renzo Fratini, 75, told Europa Press news agency that he saw “an ideology of some who want to divide Spain again” behind the decision to remove Franco’s remains from a state mausoleum.

“Honestly, there are so many problems in this world and in Spain. Why resuscitate him? I am saying they have resuscitated Franco. Leaving him in peace would be better ... God will judge him. Remembering something that has provoked a civil war does not help to live better,” Fratini said.

Deputy premier Calvo has called the remarks an “interference, in a form and with content that is inappropriate for any diplomatic representative”.

Spain’s Supreme Court last month suspended the planned exhumation of Franco’s remains from the Valley of the Fallen site for a reburial next to his wife in a family tomb, pending the result of appeals by his family.

The government had ordered the reburial in March, amid a campaign for an election that resulted in the Socialists winning the most votes, but without securing a majority. Acting prime minister Pedro Sanchez will face a confirmation vote as premier on July 23.

The Socialists have long sought to turn the Valley of the Fallen just outside Madrid, seen by many as a monument to fascism, into a memorial to victims of the 1936-39 civil war in which about 500,000 combatants and civilians were killed. Franco ruled from the end of the war until he died in 1975.

Reporting By Belen Carreno and Andrei Khalip; Editing by Frances Kerry

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