A Catalan pro-independence protest

Catalan bishop calls for release of jailed independence leaders

A Catalan bishop has called for the release of the separatist leaders jailed and banned from holding office over the 2017 independence referendum.

Driving the news

Francesc Pardo, the Bishop of Girona in the extreme north-east of Catalonia, issued the call in a Mass Tuesday for the feast of Saint Narcissus, the patron saint of Girona.

In his sermon, Pardo said it was legitimate for Christians to ask that “liberation be offered to political and social leaders convicted and sentenced to imprisonment and banned from holding public office”.

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Go deeper

The nine separatist Catalan politicians and social activists were sentenced October 14 to prison terms of between 9 and 13 years for the crime of sedition, though they were spared of the more serious charge of rebellion.

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Their imprisonment, along with the Madrid central government’s ongoing refusal to allow a legal independence referendum for the Spanish region, has been the cause of riots in Barcelona that have so far injured more than 600 people, including 289 police.

Some 350,000 pro-independence supporters marched down the city centre Saturday, before the protest once again turned violent.

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Why it matters

In his homily Tuesday Pardo said “mercy”, not violence, was the answer to the independence tensions.

“Mercy does not go against justice, but perfects it, humanises it, and is the ultimate expression of wisdom”, the bishop explained.

Pardo also insisted on the need for “freedom” in Catalonia, as well as on “dialogue”, “the ability to forgive”, the “coexistence” of Catalan and Spanish identities and the need for “solutions” to the separatist push.

The bishop called on Catholics to be free “from what dehumanises and enslaves us, from the inconsistencies […] of thinking about material goods as the sole purpose” of life.

He urged the faithful to be free, too, “from not respecting human rights, and from seeking the solution to problems in violence”.

But “freedom of expression has a limit”, Pardo also warned, and that boundary is none other than “respect for the dignity of the person or his or her beliefs”.

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One of the jailed independence leaders, Jordi Cuixart, said Tuesday that his prison stay is a “necessary step towards achieving the right to self-determination” for Catalonia.

Cuixart’s resolve came as Bank of Spain Governor Pablo Hernandez de Cos warned the unrest in the region could lead to a “gradual weakening of activity” in Spain’s economy.

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