Religious symbols to be absent from Spanish coronation

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Spain will crown its new king, Felipe VI, in a June 19 ceremony that will not include any religious references, but that the Spanish bishops are calling normal for a secular state.

The Spanish bishops are urging the faithful to pray and offer Masses for the new monarch, who will succeed his father, Juan Carlos I, who announced June 2 his intention to abdicate the throne.

The secretary general of the Spanish bishops' conference, Fr. Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, told Spanish television that Felipe VI will continue the Catholic tradition of the royal family to celebrate a religious crowning, although “not necessarily that same day.”

However, he revealed that the Vatican will be among the first destinations of the new monarch.

Fr. Gil said the era when Juan Carlos was crowned during an enthronement Mass was before Spain’s democratic constitution had been approved.

Pepe Apezarena, an expert on the Spanish monarchy, said the absence of religious symbols “coincides with the concept of the king contained in the Spanish constitution.”

“The monarch is king of all Spaniards and therefore in public he should not lean in any specific direction, but in private it is different. That is why we have seen the prince attend religious ceremonies.”

Fr. Gil said that despite the strictly secular nature of the ceremony, the “Christian convictions of the heir to the crown” are “certain.”

Apezarena pointed that swearing of the oath is still a religious act and will be included in the crowning.

“To swear is technically to make God a witness,” she said, and normally during an oath at the royal palace the Gospels, a crucifix and the Spanish Constitution are placed on the table, “although I cannot say for certain whether they will be on this occasion.”

Juan Carlos has been on the throne for 39 years, having assumed power in 1975, on the death of Francisco Franco.

Announcing his abdication, he said, “a younger generation deserves to be at the forefront, with new energies and a new way of confronting today's reality. He added that Prince Felipe has “the maturity, preparation and commitment necessary” to be Spain’s next head of state. The king called the prince “the embodiment of stability.”

The Spanish bishops noted that “we are sure that there will be continuity in the person of Felipe de Borbon y Grecia, Prince of Asturias, who has already proven he is qualified and competent, as we have seen in his different appearances in public life.” 

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