Top Spanish Catholic clerics '˜sorry for failings in face of ETA'

Major figures in the Catholic church in Spain have issued an apology for 'complicities' and 'ambiguities' in the face of ETA's violent campaign, according to Spanish media.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 11:58 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th April 2018, 12:01 pm
Rescue workers remove the wreckage of the Barajas international airport car park in Madrid,  Tuesday, January 2, 2007. Rescue workers keep searching for two people missing in the rubble of a thunderous car bomb blast blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA that shattered a nine-month-old cease-fire the group had described as permanent, officials said. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)
Rescue workers remove the wreckage of the Barajas international airport car park in Madrid, Tuesday, January 2, 2007. Rescue workers keep searching for two people missing in the rubble of a thunderous car bomb blast blamed on the Basque separatist group ETA that shattered a nine-month-old cease-fire the group had described as permanent, officials said. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza)

The websites of the newspapers El Mundo and El Pais – both of which have major circulations in Spain – reported that the leading clerics had said that whilst many churchmen had been striving “heroically” to deal with the paramilitary group, the signatories of the statement said there had been failings too.

ETA waged a long and bloody campaign for independence for the Basque country, a region inhabited by a group with a distinct language and culture, centred on northern Spain. It has since called a ceasefire, and recently apologised for some of its actions.

The reports about the clerics’ apology appeared online late on Friday.

Basque separatist group ETA issuing a statement in 2011 saying it was ending its armed campaign. (AP Photo/Basque Television, File)

According to the report in El Mundo, as translated into English by Google’s language recognition software, the statement was made by the bishops of Navarra, Pais Vasco and Bayona.

It says that the statement reads: “Throughout all these years, many of the men and women who make up the church have given their best in this task, some heroically, but we are aware that there have also been complicities, ambiguities, omissions for which we sincerely ask for forgiveness.”

It goes on to quote it as saying it is “important that the return of the ex-prisoners to their places of origin be carried out in such a way that the victims of terrorism do not feel humiliated”.

ETA stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, which essentially translates as “Basque homeland and freedom”.

Basque separatist group ETA issuing a statement in 2011 saying it was ending its armed campaign. (AP Photo/Basque Television, File)

It first emerged in the 1950s, and only called a halt to its violent campaign of bombings and shootings seven years ago. The campaign left behind hundreds of dead victims, both civilians and security services.

In a statement published by Basque newspapers Berria and Gara on Friday, ETA issued an apology to some of the people hurt by its campaign.

It said: “We want to show our respect to the dead, the injured and the victims that ETA’s actions have caused. We really are sorry.”

AVT, a national association of terrorism victims, said the statement aimed to “whiten” ETA’s past, whilst Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government said in a statement: “ETA should have sincerely and unconditionally asked for forgiveness for the damage caused a long time ago.”

The paramilitary group was also criticised because the statement was only seeking forgiveness of victims “who didn’t have a direct participation in the conflict” – apparently excluding security personnel.