Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Season for Forgiveness

Easter is the first major festival, or holiday, of what in Spain can safely be called ‘the summer season’ (at least down here on the costa). The bars, beach bars, restaurants and nick-nack shops are all open once again, freshly painted and ready to work the cash registers.  A headline says ‘Málaga to rake in €120 million during Semana Santa as celebrations to bring 1.4 million tourists’ (here). Easter outdoes itself in these days of tourism with more of a spectacle than ever, with longer processions and larger crowds, yet with more commercialism and less faith and fervour than in earlier times. A pointed cartoon from a newspaper a few years back shows female sunbathers spread on their beach-towels at the feet of the Holy Crucifixion. Only in Spain.
Spain has moved from a Catholic country (does anyone remember when Franco was in power?) to – at just 9% of Spaniards now viewing Christianity as defining; making Spain one of the least religious nations in Europe (here). Not that things are much better elsewhere. An article here quotes a study which sums up European religion thus: ‘...if it depends on the young – as depend upon them it must – then post-Christian Europe has arrived’.
While religion is now downplayed – from the school to the street – one must still be careful not to offend religious sensibilities, and a few actors, rappers and tweeters are currently on their way to court or even jail for overlooking this important point.
Catholicism may well be on the wane among the ordinary citizens, but the Opus Dei (Wiki), a powerful and slightly eccentric group within the catholic faith, has major influence within the political system (the last Interior Minister  - and Opus member - Jorge Fernández Díaz, even awarding the Virgen María Santísima del Amor with a gold medal back in 2014). Other senior PP figures who are connected to the Opus Dei include the new Minister for the Economy Román Escolano (here), Ana Mato (ex-Minister of Health), Luis de Guindos (ex-Minister of the Economy and future Vice-president of the Central European Bank), Cristobal Montoro (Minister for Hacienda), José Manuel García Magallo (previous Foreign Minister),  the ex-Defence minister Federico Trillo, the Ex-Education Minister José Ignacio Wert and so on (here and here).
While declaring one’s taxes, one can sign a box for a minute portion to go to The Church. While not many do these days, the church seems to manage well enough, receiving 256 million euros from The State last year (here). Some suggest it does considerably better, with black money, money laundering, ticket-sales, tax relief, charity, rents and so on forming other types of regular income (here).
When it comes to marriage within The Church, an article this week from El País says that, these days, you get funny looks if you want a church wedding. Now just one in every five marriages is hallowed...
The Church has its own agenda, but the churches, cathedrals and other sacred buildings in Spain are still most worthy of both respect and repair – even if, sometimes, they are treated as little more than obligatory tourist destinations, at fifteen euros per visitor...
But at least during the Easter season – all is forgiven.

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