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Spanish government questioned over claims of divine help in economic crisis

Basque leftwing party raises concerns about blurred line between church and state after ministers comments

If higher powers are helping to lift Spain out of its economic crisis, one political party wants to know exactly who they are and what they’re doing.

Amaiur, a leftwing party from the Basque country, has put a series of questions to the governing People’s party after the interior minister, Jorge Fernández Diaz, said recently he was certain that Saint Teresa was “making important intercessions” for Spain “during these tough times”.

In a letter to the government on Tuesday, Jon Iñarritu García of Amaiur asked for clarification about what help the government was getting from one of Spain’s most popular holy figures.

“In what ways does the minister of the interior think Saint Teresa of Avila is interceding on behalf of Spain?” he asked. “Does the government believe there are other divine and supernatural interventions affecting the current state of Spain? If so, who are they?”

He also took aim at the employment minister, Fátima Báñez, who last year praised the Virgin of El Rocío for helping Spain recover. “What role has the Virgin of El Rocío played in helping Spain exit the crisis?” he asked.

The letter took on a more serious tone in asking about the separation of church and state in Spain. “Does the government believe they are respecting the secular nature of the state? Does the government plan to push for a religious state?”

The increasingly blurry line between church and state in Spain has been in the headlines recently as the government moves forward with its proposal to roll back women’s access to abortion.

In an article on Diaz’s comments, El País columnist Román Orozco wrote: “If I closed my eyes … I would think I was listening to some old shirt of the Falange.” Saint Teresa was a favourite of General Franco, who kept her hand by his bed until his death.

The economic crisis has left one in four Spaniards looking for work and nearly 700,000 households in severe poverty. A report by Save the Children Spain this week said a third of children in Spain were at risk of poverty, and a quarter were living in households where there was not enough money to eat fruit or vegetables on a daily basis.

“That is the stark reality that the People’s party wants to escape by passing on responsibility to virgins and saints,” wrote Orozco. “Leaving in the lurch the millions of Spaniards who are the real martyrs of their never-ending austerity measures.”

SantaTeresa de Avila

A sculpture of Saint Teresa of Avila. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

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