Old wounds were ripped open and fights erupted yesterday as the Vatican beatified 498 priests and nuns killed in the Spanish Civil War. Scuffles between Catholics and leftists broke out near the Vatican's largest-ever beatification ceremony in St. Peter's Square. The Vatican, which supported dictator Francisco Franco during the war, considers the clergy, killed by leftist militias, to be martyrs.
"Those who tortured and killed should not be beatified," said a banner unfurled at the ceremony. The Association for History Memory demanded that the Catholic Church admit its complicity in thousands of deaths in the Franco era. "It is claiming its share of victims without admitting its role as persecutor," said a statement from the organization, which searches for mass graves of Franco's victims.