AT the Pope's side at last Sunday's canonisation of the new Spanish saint, Juan Macias, stood the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Enrique y Tarancon. The Cardinal has become a popular hero in Spain in recent years for his outspoken championing of the liberal cause. He has become correspondingly unpopular in official and government circles.
It is, however, the Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo rather than the Madrid Metropolitan who is Spain's Primate. And he stands, at least theoretically, aloof from Spanish politics. Many argue that to stand "aloof— is to Condone what happens politically, and that this is what in fact the Toledo Cardinal does. These two Cardinals may be said to symbolise the harrowing division of feeling in modern Spain.
Toledo will be remembered as the scene of one of the epic battles of the Spanish Civil War, when General Franco's forces withstood with incredible heroism the sustained siege of their adversaries.
But Spaniards of the new generation will now tell you that there are as many myths and legends attached to that siege as to so much else that happened, or was supposed to happen, in that terrible war of brother against brother. The latest Sunday Times Magazine has meanwhile dispelled some heavily entrenched beliefs about that war.
It is even harder to arrive at what is really happening in Spain today, and who is really responsible for decisions. It is not necessarily correct to assume that every important decision still comes from the ageing General Franco himself; but it may well be correct to assume that an inner circle, including his own family, wield immense power at this particular moment. It will he supremely Ironical if this clique does not survive the post-Franco crisis; and if the final legacy from the Franco era is another Civil War.
Many believe that such a terrible eventuality was brought closer by the events of last weekend. Those who condemn the brutalities of a Right-wing dictatorship are, quite understandably, reminded of the horrors perpetrated by Communist regimes. The latter, however, do not pretend to be inspired by Christian principles. The Spanish Government does.
Herein lies the clue to the intensity of the Holy Father's bitterness not only about the fact that his protests against "harsh repression" in Spain were being treated with contempt by the Catholic Government of a State with which the Holy See is linked by a Concordat; but also that such contempt overshadowed and saddened the canonisation of the Spanish missionary who met death in the course of duty, with Christian heroism, in Peru in 1645.
Such heroism is characteristic of one side of that Spanish character which has left such deep marks upon Christian history. Such marks extend in many directions, and the Spanish brutality against one particular minority in centuries gone by at least enriched England with a new ethnic group, the Sephardi Jews, who have become a valued part of our island story.
Christians today pray that, in equally mysterious ways, some good as yet unknown may at least come out of the present evils of Spanish society. And that a hero of the past, Francisco Franco, will not suffer a posthumous besmirching of his name for reasons not necessarily his own fault. If someone would come forward with the truth, the cause of justice would be served in more ways than one.