A Spanish cardinal has launched an extraordinary spray at a town councillor who accused him of endangering public health, in what that councilman called simply an “overreaction”.

– Councilman: Church must be a “role model” under COVID-19 lockdown, not bring together 200 people to venerate the Virgin

This past Sunday May 10 the cardinal archbishop of Valencia, Antonio Cañizares, made the decision to display from the doors of the city’s Royal Basilica an image of Our Lady of the Forsaken on the occasion of the Virgin’s feast day under that title.

Some 200 people congregated to venerate the Virgin in the basilica square during the few minutes the statue was on display.

That was enough for Valencia town councillor for citizen protection and the city’s local police force, Aarón Cano, to accuse Cardinal Cañizares of a “premeditated” attack on public health.

“There are things that can’t be done” in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, “and this is one of them”, Cano said on radio Sunday, criticising Cañizares’ idea of having the Virgin publicly bless the city while on display at the basilica doors.

The councilman said that such an important institution in Valencia as the Church should set an example for citizens who have been confined for the past two months, and must be a “role model in terms of the responsibility demanded by the health crisis we are going through”.

– Cardinal responds, accuses councillor of “lying through his teeth”

After Cano’s comments on radio and a police move to charge Cardinal Cañizares with disobeying COVID-19 social distancing measures over the display of the Virgin, the Valencia archdiocese released a statement Monday lamenting what it called Cano’s “manipulation” of the facts.

At no stage did the statue of the Virgin ever leave the basilica and neither were the faithful ever permitted into the church, the archdiocese claimed, insisting also that no police notices were issued to the people gathered in the square for breaches of social distancing requirements.

But Cañizares took things a step further Wednesday, publishing a long diatribe against Cano in which the cardinal blasted the councillor for doing “something as despicable and demeaning as Nero did in the Roman Empire, when he accused the Christians of something in which the Christians had no part, but who were accused of it and brought to court and persecuted”.

“With all clarity, truth and firmness, and with all the freedom that you, apparently, would like to restrict and suppress, I am sorry to tell you that you are lying through your teeth”, Cañizares fumed at Cano, in reference to the councilman’s claim that the cardinal had endangered public health.

“The damage you were trying to do is coming back to bite you”, the cardinal further warned the politician, decrying the “Marxist ideology” the councilman was toeing, in the prelate’s estimation, of the “lie as a political weapon, and the worse the better”.

“Respect your voters, who I’m sure as good Valencians don’t get angry or talk nonsense because of a display of the patron saint of Valencia, whom Valencia loves so much”, Cañizares went on in his attack on Cano.

The cardinal concluded his invective advising the councillor to “next time be more careful”.

“Before going public when you want to say something about the Church, call me first and I’ll brief you truthfully, and in that way you won’t make mistakes like the one you’ve made”, the cardinal urged the politician.

More stories on the Church in Spain, on Novena:

Spanish regional president reminds cardinal COVID-19 rules “are applicable to everyone” after people crowd to see sacred image

COVID-19: Spanish cardinal Cañizares denounces “orchestrated campaigns” for hasty return to public Masses


Progressive Catholic journalist, author and educator. Working on social justice, equality and Church renewal.