Vatican News
View of the Valley of the Fallen, where Franco's body is buried View of the Valley of the Fallen, where Franco's body is buried 

Vatican: exhumation of Franco ‘internal Spanish matter’

The Vatican says comments made by the ex-Apostolic Nuncio to Spain opposing the exhumation of Francisco Franco expressed his own opinion and do not reflect the Holy See’s official position.

By Devin Watkins

Alessandro Gisotti, ad interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, told journalists on Thursday that Archbishop Renzo Fratini’s comments about Franco’s exhumation have nothing to do with the Vatican’s position on the matter.

The former Apostolic Nuncio, whose mandate ended on 4 July, gave an interview on 30 June in which he criticized Spain’s government and said it had “resuscitated Franco”.

He said the plan to move Franco’s body from the basilica he built at the Valley of the Fallen had needlessly stirred public debate. “It would have been better to leave him in peace. Most people and politicians think this way because 40 years have passed since his death,” Archbishop Fratini said. “He did what he did; God will judge.”

Vatican not opposed

The Vatican spokesperson said the “ex Apostolic Nuncio has already denied, in the press, any intention of expressing judgement on internal political questions.”

Mr. Gisotti also said the Holy See’s position on the matter has not changed and was expressed by the Secretary of State.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin sent a letter to Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo on 14 February. “The Church is not opposed to the exhumation of the mortal remains of General Franco, if the competent Authority orders it,” he wrote.

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Church ‘respects civil authorites’

Cardinal Parolin added that the Benedictine community which oversees the Holy Cross Basilica “has been reminded – and will continued to be reminded – of its civil duty to observe fully the order and to respect civil Authorities.”

The prior of the Benedictine community had refused to allow the government to access Franco’s tomb in January.


General Francisco Franco ruled Spain as head of state and dictator from 1939 until his death in 1975.

In the 1940s and ‘50s, Franco built the Valley of the Fallen basilica where his remains now lie, 50 kilometers northwest of Madrid, as a monument to the dead on both sides of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).

The decision to move his body to the Mingorrubio-El Pardo municipal cemetery has stoked controversy, reflecting ongoing debate about Franco’s legacy.

18 July 2019, 16:27