SPAIN'S bishops' conference has defended a pastoral letter by bishops from the Basque country that criticised government plans to ban the political wing of the Basque separatist group ETA. "This pastoral letter contains a clear and cate
gorical condemnation of terrorism, and of all those persons and groups who collaborate with, shelter or defend terrorist acts," they said in a statement released earlier this month.
The Spanish government had asked the bishops' conference to condemn the pastoral letter which it described as a "moral and intellectual perversion". The Basque bishops said such a ban would threaten democracy.
The bishops' conference described criticisms of the pastoral letter as "unjust and disproportionate".
Since the 1960s, ETA has killed more than 800 Spaniards in a military campaign for Basque independence. If approved by the Senate upper house, the prohibition against ETA's political wing would be enforced in July.
Foreign Minister Josep Pique said the Basque bishops statement "made no reference to the suffering of victims".
The papal nuncio, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, declined to condemn the Basque bishops' letter.