Tuesday, July 5

The Basque Church undertakes a change of course with the Munilla relay

BILBAO

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“Pope Francis has appointed me bishop of Orihuela-Alicante as of today,” he announced Jose Ignacio Munilla Aguirre this Tuesday morning in what will probably be one of his last public events in the diocese of San Sebastián. The Vatican thus consummated a change in the Basque Church that was expected for a long time. The arrival in Madrid of Bernardito Auza, the new apostolic nuncio, and the election of Juan José Omella, archbishop of Barcelona, ​​as president of the Episcopal Conference, have only accelerated a change that had long been on the Vatican’s agenda. In fact, the lack of harmony between Munilla and his Gipuzkoan parishioners was more than evident in recent times.

And it is that José Ignacio Munilla was not a priest to use. He was a regular participant on radio and television, actively participated in social networks and has his own website. All this activity has caused him to have been involved in many controversies during his tenure. Feminist associations and in favor of the LGTBI movement came to describe him as ultraconservative, homophobic and sexist for statements such as that “homosexuality is a disorder that can be cured with therapy” or that “the devil has scored a goal »to« radical gender feminism».

“That a full welcome be offered to whoever is designated as the next bishop of San Sebastián,” he claimed this Tuesday during his appearance before the media. And it is that his arrival in Gipuzkoan lands was not easy. His appointment, in 2009, marked a break with the mandates of bishops such as Uriarte or Setién, who until then had endeavored to highlight the profile of the Basque church within the Spanish Episcopal Conference. Moreover, his arrival was interpreted as a blow to the table of the new president, Hoarse Varela, determined to retake control of the Basque church. The gesture did not please the rank and file of the church in the province and 75% of the Gipuzkoan priests then signed a letter of protest against their appointment.

Munilla assures that he faces his new destination, 750 kilometers away, “with great peace” and with “joyful obedience». In addition, he has encouraged the faithful of Gipuzkoa to “live with that same spirit of ecclesial trust, which ultimately is trust in God beyond human mediations.” He assures that he embarks on the journey with so many good memories «that would be reckless»Choose only one.

Born in San Sebastián in 1961, Munilla studied ecclesiastical studies at the major seminary of Toledo, and after being ordained a priest in 1986, he exercised his pastoral work in Guipúzcoa. In the following decades he graduated in Theology (specialty in Spirituality) and rose in the hierarchy of the Church until in 2006 he was ordained Bishop of Palencia. Three years later he was appointed bishop of San Sebastián to replace José María Setién, criticized from some quarters for his proximity to the Basque nationalist discourse.

Munilla’s change of destiny comes a few months after the Spanish Episcopal Conference also transferred Mario Iceta, bishop of Bilbao, to the archdiocese of Burgos. In his place, he placed Joseba Segura from Bilbao, who after his appointment has returned to participate in events such as the Day of Remembrance. In the next few days, the name of Monsignor Munilla’s substitute will be revealed and will probably confirm the new direction of the Basque church. “The Holy Father will seek the best possible relief for shepherding”, decided Munilla.

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