ETA Terrorists Could Face Excommunication

Bishops Reportedly Will Weigh Penalty

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MADRID, Spain, APR. 8, 2001 ( The Church in Spain is studying the possibility of excommunicating ETA terrorists, a newspaper reported.

The problem might be addressed April 24, when diocesan, auxiliary and emeritus bishops, who will be attending a plenary assembly, El Mundo reported. Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, reportedly is among those promoting the plan.

Bishops will also debate the publication of a book, which gathers Spanish prelates´ speeches on terrorism over the past half-century. The book´s publication is in response to a recent press campaign accusing the Church of lack of clarity in the face of ETA violence.

“I have no doubt about the legitimacy of applying excommunication in light of canons 1397 and 1399, as terrorist activity is a very grave crime against life and liberty,” said military Archbishop José Manuel Estepa said, who is known for his severe statements against ETA. “And, insofar as possible, there is also a need to repair the scandal caused by the mere belief that not a few of the perpetrators belong to the ecclesial community or come from it.”

Canonist José María Díaz Moreno of Comillas and Salamanca said, “Unfortunately, the dissuading effect of excommunication on the terrorists will be virtually nil. However, I understand that, in addition to attempting to avoid the crime, the laws have a pedagogic and exemplary purpose — in our case, to make the Church´s judgment on the extreme gravity of terrorism even more explicit.”

Since 1968, the ETA separatist group has been responsible for 800 deaths.

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