Yesterday masses were held all over Spain to mourn the death of Pope John Paul and cathedral and church bells rang as Spaniards paid their respects. Today is an official day of mourning and flags on all public buildings in Spain are flying at half mast.
Some conservative political commentators are critical of the fact that Spain’s government has limited national mourning to one day (compared to 3 days in some countries) although, given the difficult relationship between the Spanish catholic church and government ever since the Socialists came to power, it would have been surprising if the official mourning period had been longer.
Nevertheless, Spain’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, said yesterday that the pope’s leadership of the church had been driven by two main principles: peace and social justice, and the vice-president Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega visted the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Madrid to express the Government’s respects.
The King and Queen of Spain who had no less than 15 meetings with the Pope over the past 26 years also made a public appearance to pay their respects and sign the official book of condolences. They will travel to Rome for the funeral, together with the President of Spain and other members of the Spanish government.
Eight Spanish cardinals are on their way to Rome to participate in the funerals to be held for Pope John Paul II and six of them will also participate in the election of the new pope (two of the eight Spanish cardinals are over eighty and are therefore not allowed to take part in the election process).
Meanwhile, Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, chamberlain of the Vatican, has become the administrative leader of the Catholic Church until a new pope is elected sometime within the next few weeks. The Spanish cardinal belongs to the conservative wing of Spanish catholics, has personally criticised liberal social reform proposed by Spain’s socialist government and is rumoured to have close ties with Opus Dei.
Cardinal Martínez will be in charge of organizing the conclave of cardinals which now has to choose the new pope.