Saturday, May 3, 2014

14 April 1931 - Professed House in Madrid burnt down


It is important to remember that political instability and turmoil for the Society didn't end with its universal restoration.  Even the the next century is peppered with stories of exile and return, with destruction and rebuilding.  The great depression of 1929 had brought mass bankruptcy and unemployment.  Fascist dictators and totalitarian regimes were sprouting up as an answer to this.  In Spain, municipal elections in 1931 gave rise to the Second Spanish Republic which bought power to an anticlerical government. Articles 24 and 26 of the 1931 constitution had banned the Jesuits.

The most sustained intellectual onslaught against religion was probably that of Miguel de Unamuno and his denunciation of the 'degenerate sons' of Ignatius of Loyola. The house of 'professed' Jesuits, a residence where - in a spirit of radical poverty - no member has a stable income, was attacked and burnt down on April 14th 1931.  It is claimed that some of the relics of St Francis Borgia, the 3rd General of the Jesuits were destroyed during this attack. A month later  after provocations from monarchists, anticlerical and republican mobs burnt convents and wrecked more than a dozen churches in the capital. Similar acts of arson and vandalism were perpetrated in a score of other cities in southern and eastern Spain. 

These attacks came to be referred to as the "quema de conventos" (the burning of the convents). The burning of the convents set the tone for relations between the Republican left and the Catholic right and came to be seen as a turning point in the history of the Second Republic. The history of the Society in Spain in the twentieth century is remarkable for its resilience. The five Spanish Provinces were shattered and their numbers decimated by the Spanish Civil War which ended in 1936. However by 1945 the recovery was so complete that a sixth province was in the process of formation. 

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