Page 3, 16th November 1973

16th November 1973
Page 3
Page 3, 16th November 1973 — Speaking up for
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Speaking up for

Spaniards in UK

Tidal waves from underground rumblings of Spain's young priests hit London's Bayswater last week. Three of them, wearing a pullover or muffler ("No sacristy priests, we," as they described themselves) rushed out of the Spanish Centre in Palace Court, looking for a cheap printer.

Earlier, they had feverishly worked on proofs for a Spanish language monthly called Emigrantes and were aiming at 1,000 copies. Their criticism included the London Spanish embassy, the English parochial Catholic clergy, and "the unjust treatment to which we Britishers callously subject 50,0 0 0 Spaniards working here," Emigrantes will give vent to their feelings.

As they left me standing on the doorstep. I thought: "Were this Burgos, in two minutes they would be in jail."

Understandably furious at social and economic conditions in their country which drive 50,000 of their compatriots to take dirty jobs in hospitals and hotels no Britisher cares to do, these young priests who might themselves come from Spain's under-dog social level, differ from other leftist fighters. There was no sullen Black Power look on their faces — they are gay and hopeful.

Emigrantes criticises their embassy here. "Only interested in Gibraltar," they said, "they will not lift a finger to get Whitehall to relax the rule binding us to do five years' menial work before we can look for some worthwhile job. "Our young people pay weekly contributions lust like others. When they go back home, fed up before the five years are up, they cannot claim the old age British pension towards which they have contributed while here. And if they are married they cannot bring their families here." i heir attack on the English clergy "who don't care for us," also understandable, had me in my turn reacting as follows: "Neither do the English clergy `care' for the Irish. Poles. Ukrainians, Italians who are here. Their 'care' is left, as far as feasible, to their own native clergy."

These simpatico young priests hope to encourage their compatriots here. through Emigrantes, to fight for improved conditions. Admittedly the latter are sometimes illiterate and inarticulate. "We shall be their leaders and apostles," say the priests.

But they sense that their --titiiii wave" will no more than just lap the English parochial establishment. The saltiness of Emigrantes might raise a quizzical bushy eyebrow on a hoary old canon or two — that is if the canons know Spanish.

Here they can print what they dare not hack home. Spearheading the campaign is Father Ernesto Atanes. Earlier this year he prepared a lengthy report on the emigrants' problems.

In it, attacks are made on capi-. talism in Spain and outside, reason, he believes, for the trouble.. tie snowed ii its iiistiup Rafsie'l Gonzales of Huelva, who, as I reported on August 31, had been here at the time dealing with the matter. Bishop Gonzales, it will be recalled, represents the Spanish hierarchy throughout the world, vis-a-vis the emigrants.

But the bishop himself, heading a working-class diocese, counsels caution. No doubt, as I know, about his sympathy for the emigrants' problems. He told me from Huelva: "I have recently attended in Rome a European congress of bishops' commissions concerned with emigration. I have arranged with a bishop from Ireland to meet shortly in London for a thorough study of the problem, for now Irish hotel workers are rapidly being replaced by Spaniards."

The bishop's remarkable revelation concerned with the switchover in national emphasis has, I understand, been noted by our own bishops here, three of whom, Cardinal Heenan, Bishop Worlock of Portsmouth, and Bishop Holland of Salford, are among others deeply concerned.

They have now named Bishop Burke, Salford auxiliary, chairman for the Commission of Emmigration, with Fr. Eltin Daly, M.A., of Oxford, as secretary, with a first meeting with the Spanish priests to be held shortly. Meanwhile, the Vincentian Fathers, who run the Palace Court centre, are opening another in Bournemouth, home of many foreign students, and wilt send two of their priests there.

As a result of the visit by Bishop Gonzales in August, Fr. Manuel Pascual, C.M., flew in last week from the United States to help to deal with Catholic immigration into Britain which, if firmly handled, will benefit the Church. Now, FrSegundo Pena, C.M., has been appointed national delegate in this country for the Spanish Hierarchy. In effect he will be vicar-general to Bishop Gonzales.

First in a line of Spanish priests exclusively dedicating their life to work in England is 40 years' old Fr. Florencio Bernal, ordained four weeks ago in Spain, who arrived at Palace Court just before I called.

Fred Fulford




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