FROM A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
XXA SPANISH bishop has been accused of distributing subversive literature in support of striking workers. He is to be brought to trial in Madrid charged with postal fraud and social subversion.
Bishop Ramon Echarren, Auxiliary of Madrid, is now attending the World Synod of Bishops in Rome. In his absence the charges against him have been brought by the right wing organisation called The Vigilantes of Christ the King.
A complaint was signed alleging that Bishop Echarren illegally used the free postage granted Church authorities by the Spanish government, to mail documents supporting a strike. Strikes are against the law in Spain.
The documents sent through the post by Bishop Echarren included a letter signed by 230 priests, expressing support for 700 workers who had been sacked by a Madrid building construction company, after they had been on strike. Many of those who lost their jobs were said by the priests to be too old to find other work.
BROTHERHOODS Before going on strike, the workers had staged a sit-in in the Madrid cathedral and in a parish church. They were ousted by police, ill spite of the fact that the Church authorities supported the denionstration.
The strike was supported by about 50,000 other workers, about half of those employed in the Madrid construction industry. Leaders of the Catholic Action Workers' Brotherhoods (HOAC) and university students, joined the 230 priests in support of the strikers. They distributed a report saying that the strike was justified, after other methods of trying to make employers meet demands for higher wages, shorter working hours and better conditions, had failed. A special court for political crimes will try the Bishop's case.
CONCORDAT The prosecution of Bishop Echarren shows that the Spanish Government is continuing its pressure against efforts of the Catholic Church to aid the coun try's workers. Police recently broke up and banned a seminar on Spanish labour problems sponsored by the HOAC. Leaders protested, claiming that the police had no permission from the courts to ban the seminar, and acted in violation of Spain's concordat with the Holy See.
According to the concordat, police cannot interfere in Church affairs without the permission of Church authorities which they did not have in this case.
A recent government amnesty for political and other prisoners, including some priests, has eased some of the political tensions in Spain. But a priest who supported the strikers, Fr. Salve, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison and fined about /60, since the amnesty was announced.