Basque Bishops´ Letter on ETA´s Political Wing Raises Eyebrows

Holy See Refrains from Intervening, for Now

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 2, 2002 ( The Holy See had no immediate comment on a pastoral letter written by Basque bishops, in which they oppose the outlawing of Herri Batasuna, the party considered ETA´s political wing.

Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican Press Office, said on Saturday that the Holy See «will not intervene for the moment.»

Last Wednesday, the bishops of San Sebastian, Bilbao and Vitoria published a pastoral letter entitled «Prepare Peace,» in which they address the fundamental requisites for peace, which has been violated by the ETA separatist terrorist group.

In particular, there has been strong criticism in the country against those who are opposed to Spanish government´s plan to outlaw Herri Batasuna.

The bishops oppose this measure saying it will have «somber consequences» for «our coexistence and the cause of peace.»

The next day, the Spanish episcopal conference issued a press statement explaining that the pastoral letter is the «exclusive responsibility» of the Basque bishops.

The episcopal conference said it had no knowledge of the text of the letter until a few minutes before it was published by the media. The Spanish conference said it «has not thought it necessary to pronounce itself» over the legality of political parties.

The Basque bishops were harshly criticized by the Spanish government, which on Friday called a meeting with Archbishop Manuel Monteira, the apostolic nuncio in Spain, to express Madrid´s «vexation and uneasiness.»

More than 350 Basque priests have publicly supported the bishops of the Basque Nation.

ETA, a terrorist group born in 1959, wants independence for the Basque Nation. It has been responsible for the murder of hundreds of innocent victims.

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