Home EVENTS Spain’s Catholics Publicly Recite Rosaries In Defiance Of Government Ban

Spain’s Catholics Publicly Recite Rosaries In Defiance Of Government Ban

Spain’s Catholics Publicly Recite Rosaries In Defiance Of Government Ban


While the theology around the Immaculate Conception would not be proclaimed until 1854, the church in Spain had venerated Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception as far back as 1585. That was the year a miracle attributed to the Immaculate Conception allowed the Spanish soldiers to win the Battle of Empel in the Netherlands during the time of the Holy Roman Empire’s House of Habsburg.

Protest permits denied 

This massive demonstration has been weeks in the making. On Nov. 27, the government had ordered a stop to the praying of the rosary and riot police were used to stop them. Catholic News Agency’s Spanish-language news partner ACI Prensa reported that the participants were ordered by police to stop praying, but those gathered continued.

Police made several arrests, including that of a 60-year-old woman, according to videos posted to social media. As a result, rosary rallies scheduled for Nov. 28-30 were also banned. 

While freedom of religion is guaranteed by Spain’s constitution, the law says that the right of assembly in public must come with a permit request given to government officials 10 days in advance. However, the law also provides for at least 24 hours notice to be given for matters considered urgent. In either case, the permit can be denied. 

The massive rosary protest stems from last month’s decision by the Spanish Socialist Workers Party’s announcement that it was brokering political deals in order to form a coalition government to take power following last summer’s divisive elections.

As part of the deal, the ruling government — led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez — allied itself with EH Bildu, the political heirs of the terrorist Marxist separatist group ETA, and Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya and Junts per Catalunya, leftist groups that had promoted the secessionist coup d’état in Catalonia in 2017. In addition, the incoming Spanish premier was inaugurated before King Felip VI, a Nov. 15 ceremony in which he declined to take his inaugural oath on the Bible

When the agreement that included amnesty for convicted secessionist leaders in Catalonia was in the works as a result of the new political alliance, protests sprouted up in Madrid. Within weeks, as part of those growing protests that swelled to 170,000 people on Nov. 18, lay Catholics began to pray the rosary outside Madrid’s Shrine of the Immaculate Conception not far from the massive demonstrations near the ruling party’s headquarters.. 

The national call for many rosary gatherings picked up steam following the government ban. Calderon, who had also organized the original protests, said on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter: “We live in a tyranny where we are not allowed to worship God. But if they think that they are going to silence the Spanish people like this, they are very much mistaken. God with us!” 

Many in Spain and across Europe fear that authoritarian rule could overwhelm the country. Spain has only been a democracy since 1982 after the death of Fascist dictator Francisco Franco died in 1975 following 36 years of rule.

Since then, the country has had several different parties in power. Socialists have been in power several times over the last few decades. Sanchez, who is considered one of Europe’s most-progressive prime ministers, follows in that tradition.

The center-right Vox party had won the most votes in the July election, but failed to win enough support to form a government. Amid escalating violence, Sanchez — and his new allies — built a coalition big enough to take control of parliament.

Declining number of Catholics 

Culture wars in Spain are far more related to politics than religion. At the same time, the number of practicing Spanish Catholics has declined. In May 1978, 90.5 percent of Spaniards described themselves as Catholic. By October 2021, however, that figure had fallen to 55.4 percent, according to the CIS, Spain’s public research center

Most Spaniards do not participate regularly in weekly religious worship. A July 2021 study shows that of the Spaniards who identify themselves as religious, 36% never attend mass, 20.8% barely ever attend mass, 19% attend mass a few times a year, 6.8% two or three times per month, 13.4% every Sunday and holidays and 2.9% multiple times per week. 

According to a 2021 survey, those who go to church several times a year are 17.3% of the total population of 47.4 million; those who go several times a month, 9.3%; those who go every Sunday and all holy days of obligation, 14.9%; and those who go several times a week at just 4.3%.  

Nonetheless, the events of the last few weeks have sparked debates across the country, with those who support religious freedom rallying to the defense of Catholics. The Spanish Foundation of Christian Lawyers, for example, filed a formal complaint against the Madrid official who was ordered by the government to shut down the gatherings

“This government has undertaken a real persecution against Christians,” said Poland Castellanos, the group’s president. “They are not going to be able to intimidate us.”


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