Spain says Vatican to help with discreet reburial of Franco

The Spanish government said Tuesday that the Vatican has agreed to jointly find ways to prevent the remains of late Spanish dictator Gen. Francisco Franco from being reburied under a central Madrid cathedral after they are exhumed from a glorifying mausoleum.

Relatives of Franco want to reinter his embalmed body in a family crypt under Almudena Cathedral if the government delivers on a promise to remove it from the Valley of the Fallen, a self-aggrandizing mausoleum outside of the Spanish capital where he was interred upon his death in 1975 along the remains of some 34,000 fighters from both sides of the Civil War.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said the Vatican's State Secretary Pietro Parolin had agreed during a Monday meeting to "jointly find a solution that obviously can't be the Almudena" cathedral.

The two sides agreed that while Franco's remains need to be relocated to a place "with dignity," the government "must guarantee in all Spanish territory that Franco is not praised."

The Spanish government and Catholic authorities in Spain had previously said they couldn't oppose the proposal from Franco's heirs because the sepulcher under Madrid's main church is owned by the family, which bought it from the church for 30,000 euros ($34,000) more than two decades ago.

But Tuesday's remarks by Calvo, the official in charge of the exhumation, suggested a new turn in the center-left Spanish administration's efforts to bring Franco out of the spotlight. The attempts have been opposed mainly by supporters of Franco's authoritarian regime and his heirs.

The Franco family crypt under the Spanish capital's cathedral is centrally located among major tourist hotspots and near the Royal Palace where Franco used to address ecstatic crowds rallying in support of his regime.

Opponents worry that having the general's remains there would make Madrid a pilgrimage destination for extreme right groups and others nostalgic for Franco's authoritarian rule.