Secularist sectors are trying to deprive the Church of the ownership of its properties

Omnes-June 2, 2017-Reading time: 4 minutes

For ideological reasons and with hardly any legal arguments, some groups are taking advantage of the immatriculations of Church properties to generate a contrived controversy.

Diego Pacheco

In mid-May, the judge of the Administrative Contentious Court No. 5 of Zaragoza suspended as a precautionary measure the process of immatriculation of the Cathedral of San Salvador (La Seo) and the church of La Magdalena by the city council. It thus annulled an agreement of March 27 by which the Zaragoza consistory established the initiation of administrative and judicial actions to obtain the domain of these temples and thus annul the immatriculation of these properties already practiced in favor of the domain of the Church.

The magistrate argues in her decision that the report presented by the city council does not contain a single reasoning on the feasibility of what it intends to carry out. And, above all, "Nor does the report contain the slightest indication of the possible rights that the City Council of Zaragoza may have over the aforementioned temples, in order to propose the actions mentioned in the agreement". In addition, the legal report that must accompany this type of municipal agreements, required by law, is not sufficient, according to the judge. "so that the members of the municipal corporation have an accurate knowledge of the circumstances of the case."from there the judge's adoption of this precautionary measure: to ensure that local corporations make a thoughtful use of judicial actions.

Undisputed ownership

Therefore, the disentailment attempt of the Zaragoza consistory to snatch La Seo -which is the cathedral of Zaragoza, the main temple of a diocese- from the Church, and its seizure project so that these two temples become public property, is aborted for the time being.

The head of communication of the archbishopric of Zaragoza, José Antonio Calvo, has pointed out that the archbishopric has taken the municipal agreement with peace of mind, because "legality and jurisprudence support us". Calvo expresses his confidence that the justice system will "will prove us right" in case the consistory of the Aragonese capital decides to claim before the courts. The recent decision of the judge of the Administrative Court No. 5 of Zaragoza suggests so. "If they claim public ownership, they will have to prove it, but this is impossible", because both the Cathedral of La Seo as well as the parish of Santa María Magdalena. "are ecclesiastical institutions since their inception in the late eleventh century". and the Church's dominion over these assets "it has been peaceful, uncontested and notorious." over time. Jlegally, these properties belong to the Church. "for a whopping 800 years; therefore, it is undisputed.". And so it is with many other temples, which have belonged to the Church since time immemorial.

The record is later

Calvo added that these properties are older than the land registry, which was created in the second half of the 19th century. Y like "it was so notorious" that belonged to the patrimony of the Church, as was the case with the assets of municipalities and other administrations, "we were exempted from the ability to register them.". For this reason, a decision of the Supreme Court establishes "that it is not unconstitutional for the Catholic Church to immatriculate property, but that it has been deprived of this possibility for decades". E The objective of the immatriculation of these properties has been to "to give publicity to a property that already existed, not to take possession of the property at the time".because the registry "makes visible what is already a property, but does not give it."

Likewise, Calvo has assured that the registration was legal and in no case there was fraud of law, given that at the time of the immatriculation of the two properties (in 1987 and 1988) the regulations established an exception to the immatriculation for the temples destined to the Catholic cult, due to their notoriety. The idea was to give "transparency to the situation of assets that since time immemorial, without any dispute and with all due evidence, are ours".because the Church "it is an institution older than the State". and therefore "sometimes we don't have the title deeds."because there was no agency to issue them.

Religious use at risk

For the archbishopric of Zaragoza, the initiative of the city council constitutes, under the banner of a misunderstood secularism, "an attack on the civil rights of the institutions and against legitimate freedom". "It wants to deprive the Church of property." when it is the Church that "has created, maintains and preserves the life and purpose of its own." of these buildings, which are a place of "gathering of Christians". and, at the same time, "religious expression". If the city council were to take over the ownership of these two temples, "the main purpose for which they were created would become secondary."because although "it is said that they would remain spaces of worship, conflicts would be assured".

For Calvo, it is about "a conflict artificially created by ideological and secularist causes that want to expel the Church from societyof public life and that seek confrontation". And should the municipal initiative go ahead, he concludes, "Zaragoza would be a less free place."

The problem, says the archbishopric spokesman, is that the city council's initiative could become, if it is not stopped by the courts, a "systematic process of seizure and confiscation of assets"..

The diocese's lawyer, Ernesto Gómez Azqueta, doubts "that the city council has the necessary legitimacy". to initiate this type of initiative; "would correspond, in any case, to the Government of Aragon or to the Government of the nation"..

For his part, the vice-secretary for economic affairs of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Fernando Giménez Barriocanal, has indicated that he does not know "why do you want to deprive Catholics of the goods they rightfully possess?" and also stressed that "some of these municipalities that say that the Church is appropriating these assets, do not understand for what purpose and what is the use that is made of them, which is a religious use."

He added that "if the mayor of Zaragoza wants to go to pray to the Seo he can go, and if he wants to use any other public resource he can do it".

Barriocanal reiterated that the immatriculation of property "it is not an irregular procedureThe company's mission is to provide citizens with goods that are really rendering an enormous service".. It also recalls that there are "challenge mechanisms". "Sf the municipality has the deed of ownership of La Seo, it can prove that it is the municipality that has built it. and the holder will be able to exercise the actions as when any other citizen discovers that in the property registry appears a property that is his and that appears in the name of another".

Contribute to society

Giménez Barriocanal also insists that the assets of the Church are always open to society and that the Church's assets are always open to the public. "bring great social and economic benefit. Each cathedral represents an average of 140 million euros of wealth in the Spanish economy".. In addition, these assets generate 1,500 jobs.

It now remains to be seen what action the Zaragoza City Council will take, although experts say it would be a resounding failure. 

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