The President of the government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, announced a State ceremony “in tribute to the deceased” due to the Covid-19.
It should also be an expression of gratitude to the “public servants that have been in the first line” fighting against the pandemic, he said.
The national ceremony comes as the country has entered a “new normality” stage in which confinement measures have been relaxed, although face masks and other hygiene measures continue to be required.
The remembrance ceremony will take place on 16 July in the Royal Palace of Madrid, and will be presided by King Philip VI. Other high representatives that will attend are Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission), David Sassoli (President of the European Parliament), Charles Michel (President of the European Council), and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (the Director General of the World Health Organization).
“With this ceremony, the Spanish society will be able to give a deserved and heartfelt thank you to all the people and both public and private collectives that have fought and continue to fight in the first line against the virus, during this pandemic”, the government said.
“This civil ceremony will be the farewell to all those who have lost their life in Spain due to the pandemic and a recognition for their family member and for those who, having suffered the illness, fortunately have survived”, he added, speaking to the parliament.
The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain (Ferede) confirmed that its Secretary General received an invitation to attend the State ceremony.
The Roman Catholic Church, which has also been invited, held its own funeral mass to remember the coronavirus victims ten days before this State ceremony, on 6 July.
An image of the Roman Catholic funeral for the Covid-19 victims in July 2020, with the presence of the Kings Philip VI and Leticia. / Capture video RTVE
The King of Spain and the Vice-President of the government, as well as other representatives, attended the mass, but some criticised the fact that President Sánchez and other high representatives of the State would break the tradition and only attend the secular State ceremony.
Hundreds of evangelical churches of almost all denominations organised remebrance services on Sunday 14 June. Under the theme “Evangelical Memorial: Bringing memory to life”, local congregations read a manifesto speaking of the hope found in the gospel, and shared testimonies related to those who have suffered the virus.
A relevant change
In Spain, the Roman Catholic Church has traditionally led all State funerals in the past. Recent State funerals after the Spanair plane crash in 2008 and the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in 2004, were in the hands of the Episcopal Conference.
The controversial decision of the government to hold a non-confessional State ceremony honours the Constitution, which clearly states that Spain has no official religion.
Evangelical Christians are among those who for a long time have said argued that such ceremonies should either include all religions or have a non-confessional tone. Pedro Sánchez, an atheist, has opted for the second option, organising what is the first secular State ceremony for the victims of a national tragedy.