Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Spanish bishop who had previously expressed his support for Catalan independence.
Bishop Xavier Novell Gomà of Solsona, 52, who was one of Spain’s youngest bishops, cited personal reasons for stepping down, the Spanish Bishops’ Conference said in a statement.
“Bishop Novell took the decision after a time of reflection and prayer at the end of which he spontaneously presented to the Holy Father his situation and his resignation to the Diocese of Solsona.”
His departure was accepted by the Vatican under Canon Law 401, which states that a bishop who for reasons of “ill health” or “some other grave reason has become unsuited for office” may resign .
Bishop Gomà, who condemned the Spanish government’s response to the “illegal” referendum in 2017, and travelled 15km to vote after police closed his nearest polling station, had been vocal in his support for Catalan self-determination.
His views differ from those of the majority of Spanish Bishop’s including Cardinal Antonio Cañizares of Valencia:
“It is unacceptable for nations to claim independence unilaterally by their own will,” wrote the Cardinal in the Madrid daily La Razón in November 2017.
Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia has has described the resignation as unprecedented and criticised the Spanish bishops for “absolute silence” on the reasons for his departure.
The Vatican appointed Bishop Roman Casanova Casanova, Bishop of Vic, as the new administrator of the Diocese of Solsona.