The Festival of the Virgin of Candelaria was marked yesterday by the devotion and visits made by thousands of people from Tenerife to Villa Mariana despite the pandemic. But also because of the role played by the Bishop of Tenerife, Bernardo Álvarez. The manifestations of the Nivarian prelate on homosexuality and, in particular, that on Tuesday the controversy was reactivated when it became known that he would have to testify before the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office -which has opened an investigation for an alleged hate crime- all eyes were on the highest diocesan official. The priest preferred to avoid the matter and did not refer to it directly during the ceremony.
Alvarez opted for a purely religious homily. He focused on citations to the readings that take place at the beginning of the Eucharist, in the Gospel, the Virgin, Jesus Christ… Few mentions of more everyday aspects and no comments clearly linked to his statements. In any case, and if you look for a phrase with a possible connection with the conflict generated by the words about homosexuality, before the prayer of the Lord’s Prayer Álvarez did seem to subtly insist on the forgiveness that he had already expressed publicly. “May he forgive us, may he free us from evil”, he said after a long silence and in the direction of God.
This Wednesday’s act came after Last week, all the political formations with a presence in the plenary hall of the Cabildo de Tenerife condemned the prelate’s statements in which he pointed out, in the program Good afternoon Canary Islands, from Canarian Television, that homosexuality is “a mortal sin if done knowingly that it is wrong.” In addition, this case coincides in time with the sentence that guarantees that the Slavery of the Christ of La Laguna continues to veto women and with a general delicate moment for the Church, and that follows other comments of wide repercussion by Álvarez, as was the “there are minors who provoke you if you are not careful” fifteen years ago in an interview in The Opinion of Tenerife.
This February 2, representatives of the island institution were in the Basilica, such as its president, Pedro Martín (PSOE), or the vice president, Enrique Arriaga (Cs). Other prominent authorities were the sub-delegate of the Government in the Canary Islands, Jesús Javier Plata, also a socialist, and the chief lieutenant general of the Canary Islands Command, Alejandro Escámez, who experienced his first institutional act in his new position. In exchangei the president of the Government of the Canary Islands, Ángel Víctor Torres, nor the president of the regional Parliament, Gustavo Matos, both from the Socialist Party (PSOE), attended. The interaction of the politicians who were there with Bernardo Álvarez was reduced. “I think we have greeted each other as always,” the mayor of Candelaria, María Concepción Brito (PSOE), downplayed that perception, in statements to the media when asked about the coldness that could be felt with the political leaders who attended.
Brito did express himself bluntly about the substance of what has happened. “We have all condemned those words; he has also done well to rectify », he began. “The Church has its doctrine and its norms; but the first commandment is love for your neighbor, love whoever you love, whatever it is. That respect for people is what should prevail. And that’s what Jesus Christ taught.” the local councilor reflected, and added: «Then the people who run the institutions can make mistakes, as I think the bishop has done in this case».
Martin did not shy away from the matter either. “I have already stated my personal position, and the PSOE brought a motion that was approved unanimously in the Cabildo to disapprove of those statements,” recalled the island president. “I hope that in the future they will not occur again and that those of us who are believers will realize that surely we will all fit in the kingdom of heaven,” he explained. “There is a time for those of us who are believers and that has nothing to do with disapproving the bishop’s opinions at a certain time,” he replied about his presence there after the disapproval went ahead.
The head of the Cabildo rejected that the absence of Torres and Matos sought to avoid the photo with the prelate. “Both presidents know how to distinguish very well what their obligations are from their opinions, and it has nothing to do with it because this is an act of believers, also in support of a municipality like Candelaria; it is part of our culture and that should not be mixed with the opinions that a member of the Church may have, “he said.
As expected, getting any reaction from the bishop was mission impossible. At the end of the act, the moment in which the Morenita was taken to the main door of the temple and a firework of flyers sounded in the sky of Candelaria, Bernardo Álvarez quickly left the place. A national television program made an attempt to ask him something, but not like that.
Visits to the Patron Saint
“Get out, get out!”, began to be heard then along with some whistles. It came from a group of people waiting in line to access the Basilica. False alarm: The boos weren’t directed at Álvarez. The mini procession to the door and the subsequent farewell had slowed access and the parishioners were beginning to lose patience. They were immediately allowed to enter the temple again. These are the events of an edition that, as the mayor of Candelaria reminded us, was once again marked by the pandemic and by the need for collective responsibility.
Despite the fact that the acts of this February 2 were limited to the Eucharist and despite the fact that the rain was noticeable at times, the influx of visitors in the area of Calle de La Arena and Plaza de la Patrona de Canarias was high both before and after the main mass, in which The choir of the Orfeón La Paz de La Laguna sang –which turned 104 yesterday– and in which La Palma also had its space. “In particular, we entrust you to those on the island of La Palma who are suffering the consequences of the volcano. Give them patience, strength and hope in the midst of their tribulations, and make us sensitive to their needs so that with the solidarity of all and the good management of the institutions they can rebuild their lives”, asked the bishop, a native of the Breña Alta municipality of La Palma, in a prayer that he addressed to the Virgin of Candelaria to close his homily.