Agree and Restore for All, by Félix Bolaños

The agreement signed this week by the Government and the Spanish Episcopal Conference on property registered by the Catholic Church is good news. A first agreement, a good start.

This is primarily due to process started in 2017, when the preliminary work for the preparation of an in-depth legal study of these assets began, in order to update their registration status. A study that led to a list of 34 961 goods composed by the Government, of which 20,014 are places of worship and 14,947 are of a different kind. Secondly, it is due to the momentum that the bilateral meetings held in recent months have meant, in which the Episcopal Conference undertook to carry out the work of verification and cataloging of the assets listed in the said list hand in hand with the Government.

The joint work yielded a first result: About a thousand goods emerged that, despite being registered by the Church at the time, the Episcopal Conference itself now recognizes that these are assets belonging to third parties or about which they have no information about their ownership. All the information has already been transferred to the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces. Now the town councils and the property registers will be in charge of the implementation of the regulation corresponding in each case. If the owners are not tracked down, the ownership will be revealed.

Since last August, we have had several meetings and a myriad of contacts. It has worked with discretion and good faith, and I hope that this spirit continues to characterize the relationship between the Government and the Church. with this step the work of the registration commission is not complete, which presents another task: to clear up a variety of casuistry of situations, to check the ownership of the corresponding assets and to refine the lists in order to refine any documentary inaccuracy detected. We share the idea of ​​making all information public in order to make available to the community the goods that the Catholic Church does not recognize as its own and that can be attributed to their rightful owners.

At the same time, the commissions related to the tax regime of the Catholic Church or the Obra Pía of Rome continues to progress in the entrusted task, which should consolidate a fruitful dynamic of cooperation.

We share the pain of the victims of cases of abuse, which need to be cleared up by the church hierarchy

Notwithstanding these joint working commissions, the Government also expressed to the Church its concern about the abuse cases, which generates a huge impact on national and international public opinion. We share the pain of the victims, whose testimonies deeply shock us. They are open wounds, emotional scars that need to be healed with the help and active dedication of all. Especially from the ecclesiastical hierarchy, which is obliged to do everything possible to, in line with other countries around us, such as France or Ireland, explanation facilitated of all conduct and practices of a serious nature that may have occurred within it. To repair the damage done as far as possible and so that, as Pope Francis pointed out, do not repeat themselves. The government of Spain is and will always be with the victims, and will take the necessary measures to accompany the people who have suffered abuse. Organic Act 8/2021, of 4 June, on the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents against violence – known as the ‘Rhodes Act’ – is good proof of this. Our goal is twofold: to clear up all cases and prevent them from happening again.

We are a vibrant and multiple democracy, which guarantees the defense of different points of view and promotes the search for shared spaces. Spaces in which everyone feels represented and in which everyone contributes to the general interest. Big changes require big deals. This search for agreements is the Government’s priority measure for action. These agreements are achieved through dialogue, which we understand as the best way to manage public affairs.

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We showed dialogue capacity in the parliamentary sphere, with European partners, with social agents, and now, with the Catholic Church, within the framework of the state’s non-ecclesiastical nature and in accordance with the provisions of Article 16 of the Constitution, which instructs public powers to to maintain cooperative relationships with the various creeds that are present in our society.

Dialogue is not the end, it is the path that leads to meeting points. This Government agrees with everyone because he knows that everyone contributes. And we are convinced that agreement is the best way forward. In this case, go ahead and recover a thousand assets for their rightful owners.

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