Outcry as People's Party leader attends Franco anniversary mass 'without being aware'
Pablo Casado avoids questions on topic, Franco Foundation "appreciates" his attendance at service in Granada
The leader of the People's Party, Pablo Casado, was unaware, his party claims, that a mass he attended on Saturday in Granada would end with the priest asking for a prayer for Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator who ruled Spain until his death in 1975.
Casado dodged the issue when questioned about it on Monday in Bilbao, with his press team saying he went to an ordinary mass with his family "without being aware of any other circumstances."
Spanish media outlets including Newtral published pictures of Casado with mass-goers on the 46th anniversary of the dictator's death, and the incident has provoked reaction from various political parties.
Podemos spokesperson Pablo Echenique said Casado's attendance at the mass was "extremely serious" and he doubted that it could be attributed to chance, because "there were 10 masses for Franco and 23,000 churches in Spain, so the chance of going to a mass for Franco was 0.005%."
The leader of Más País, Íñigo Errejón, said "if this had happened in another country, if Merkel had gone to a mass where honors were being paid to Adolf Hitler, I am convinced that the next morning she would say she had been in the wrong." Casado must "make it clear that the leader of the opposition does not pay homage to dictators."
Socialist spokesperson Hector Gómez also criticized Casado, saying it was "absolutely irresponsible" and required an explanation.
Casado, however, preferred to remain silent on the issue when he appeared before the press after visiting the Memorial Center for Victims of Terrorism in Bilbao.
The Franco Foundation issued a statement on Monday explaining that "it did not expressly invite" the PP leader to the mass in Granada, but "appreciates" him attending along with his family. The organization – which could be banned under a new democratic memory law – said that "it hopes that this type of news will serve to normalize" its activities and events.