|Bishop Juan Antonio Reig Surprisingly Strong in the
Bishops' Conference of Spain
(Madrid) The Fall General Assembly of the Spanish Bishops' Conference elected three synododalists for the Synod of Bishops on the Family in 2015 with a not insignificant surprise.
The Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who was dismissed by Pope Francis and sent back as Archbishop of Valencia, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares to Spain, has been, it seems, chosen with great support to the Chairmanship of the Conference of Bishops. He replaces the retired Archbishop of Madrid Rouco Varela.
Archbishop Blázquez and Bishop Iceta in 2015 as Synodalists in Rome
The second vote is likely some food for thought. The Spanish Episcopal Conference was represented in the first part of the Synod of Bishops, which took place as extraordinary Synod last October, automatically and exclusively by its President, while three representatives will participate in the second part, the Annual Synod, who were elected by the bishops from their own ranks. First place will go to the Vice President of the Bishops' Conference, then Ricardo Blazquez, archbishop of Valladolid, who was elected by a large majority. In second place comes a Mario Iceta Gavicagogeascoa, the Bishop of Bilbao who is an acknowledged expert on bioethical issues. Both are considered of "strong character and conservative," said the Spanish Catholic church historian and blogger José Francisco Fernández de la Cigoña.
Jockeying for Third Place at Synod
For third place, however it came to a scramble. For this spot, the Archbishop of Madrid, Carlos Osoro Sierra, who was appointed by Pope Francis, and him alone, would have gotten the position owing to his rank. In reality, several rounds of voting were needed because Archbishop Osoro could not gather a sufficient majority. In the end, Osoro prevailed because of one vote.. His opponent was none other than Bishop Juan Antonio Reig of Alcalá de Henares. Archbishop Reig is the Spanish bishop who speaks in the most definitive language and does not hesitate to publicly engage in clear words for faith. But he is also most severely under attack by opponents of the church and media. "If the Archbishop of Granada had been present, Archbishop Osoro would have gotten a nasty surprise," says Fernández de la Cigoña.
Surprising Moral Support for Bishop Juan Antonio Reig
The humiliating ballots are a snub for the new Archbishop of Madrid. Perhaps the voting behavior of many bishops were directed not against him, but were rather in support of the positions of Bishop Reig. The Bishop of Alcalá de Henares had to put up with a thorough drubbing in public in recent months, but stood at the forefront in the defense of non-negotiable values and expressed clear positions on the controversial issues at the Synod of Bishops. The vote for him, if he ultimately lost the election, means a substantial strengthening his position in the Bishops' Conference. Bishop Reig was the one who sharply criticized the reigning bourgeois Partido Popular because of the pandering to the abortion party. Next year, a new parliament will be elected in Spain. The support of the bishop by his confreres can also be seen in this context and even more importantly, there is nevertheless in most of the Episcopal Conferences a certain unwillingness to mess with political power, and certainly not before elections.
The close defeat of Bishop Reig is a loss for the Synod of Bishops. More surprising than its failure, however, is that he could ever unite so many votes against the Archbishop of Madrid, almost half the episcopate. It may be as general custom now such that Bishop Reig is a replacement synodalist, should one of the three newly elected Synod members should not be able to go to Rome.
Spain's bishops are well positioned in sum for the Bishops' Conference. Their position was clearly stated with the election of Archbishop Blázquez, Bishop Iceta and the votes for Bishop Reig.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi