July 2019

My dear friends,

A couple of years ago I was visiting Tarragona in Spain. It is a lovely city, and I really enjoyed exploring the fine medieval cathedral, complete with a spectacular organ and magnificent 15th century altar screen. Like many Spanish cathedrals, there is also a lovely cloister, with a beautiful fountain surrounded by a rose garden. It was very lovely, and a place of great peace.

My eye was drawn to a plaque on the cloister wall with many names on it, and it turned out to commemorate hundreds of priests, monks, and nuns of the diocese who were murdered during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Perhaps one of the hidden facts of this brutal period in Spanish history is that nearly 7,000 clergy and members of religious orders perished during the ‘Red Terror,’ as it is sometimes known.  Whilst there were undoubtedly some very unpleasant dealings and responses by some of the hierarchy of the Church on the Republican side, most of those who died were merely devout Christians trying to lead lives of goodness – seeking to serve Jesus. 

The terrible deeds committed on both sides, Nationalist and Republican, have left deep and lasting scars. How does society deal with such terrible history? Is it to dig over the same ground again and again? Is it to continually chew on the bones of grievance and hatred? Is true justice every achievable in such a situation, so long after the event?

We live in times of great volatility, where ugly ‘voices’ on all sorts of fronts are amplified in all sorts of ways, most spectacularly through misusing the tool of social media. At the end of the day, WE, as brothers and sisters in Christ. are called to stand up for justice and peace for all people; to show the overflowing love of God at work within our lives, and to reveal this same love to those we meet as a sign of hope – the ultimate antidote and means of healing to injustice, hatred and intolerance.

With love,

Michael

The cathedral cloisters at Tarragona