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Canonization of Queen Isabella Moves Ahead Despite ‘jewish Lobby’

April 28, 2003
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Queen Isabella will become a Roman Catholic saint even though she decreed the eradication of one of history’s most vibrant Jewish communities and created the dreaded Inquisition tribunal, a senior Spanish church cleric said.

“The Catholic Queen will be canonized,” Braulio Rodriguez, archbishop of city of Valladolid, told Latin American ambassadors and other guests at a ceremony in Madrid on April 22.

The event, marking the birthday of the 15th-century queen, was held at an Iberian-American cultural center where a publication of replicas of some of the monarch’s personal documents was presented.

Aimed at promoting her path to sainthood, the publication was co-sponsored by the Spanish Education Ministry.

“We are waiting calmly” for the decision of the church, despite protests from Jews and liberal Catholics over the proposed beatification, Rodriguez said. His archdiocese is the official sponsor of the beatification, a key step before canonization.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo reflected a widely held view here that a key impediment to Isabella’s beatification cause is Jews wielding influence in high places and not just in the secular ambit.

“The worldwide Jewish lobby, which apparently has much influence in the Vatican, doesn’t look favorably on the beatification,” the newspaper said.

Isabella’s beatification was first proposed in the 1950s, during the church-supported dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco.

Little progress was made until two years ago, when the Spanish bishops’ conference formally revived Isabella’s candidacy in a letter to Pope John Paul II.

The pope will meet with Spanish bishops during a visit to Spain next month, the first of several international trips this year for the 82-year-old pontiff.

Isabella’s proponents hope she will be canonized by 2004, the 500th anniversary of her death.

They say Isabella was instrumental in spreading the Christian faith throughout Latin America and purportedly advocated ideals, such as the abolition of slavery, that today would qualify as human rights, her supporters say.

Isabella also is a hero of Spanish history, credited with sparking a national and cultural renaissance after she and her husband drove out Muslim kings from the Iberian peninsula after seven centuries of an Islamic presence.

The archbishop of Valladolid said Isabella is an ideal candidate for sainthood because she is “a good example for Spanish Catholics today.”

The beatification has been sharply criticized, both in Spain and the United States.

Detractors say Isabella’s policies were nothing less than genocidal, leading to the destruction of indigenous cultures in Latin America and the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.

After a century of pogroms against Jews, Isabella and Ferdinand put the nail in the coffin of the “Golden Age” of Spanish Jewry, which had produced great minds such as Maimonides and Yehuda Halevi and some of the first kabbalistic writings.

The so-called “Catholic Monarchs” gave an estimated 100,000 Jews who remained in Spain in 1492 the choice of conversion or flight.

They also established the Inquisition, which condemn heretics and “judaizers” to torture or death in the infamous auto da fe, or burning at the stake.

Church critics in Spain say the bishops are looking to the past for traditional role models in a country with rampant secularization and plummeting levels of church attendance.

Press reports have cited concerns at the Vatican over a general lack of popular support for the cause.

However, according to the Valladolid diocese, the file on the cause contains 33 volumes with more than 100,000 letters in support of the beatification of the queen written to the pope since the mid-1990s.

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