Catholic lawmaker Juan Cotino took his oath of office for parliament in Spain before a crucifix to show that the faith must not be excluded from public life.
Cotino made “an eloquent and courageous public gesture manifesting his own religious convictions, which he did not want to hide upon exercising his new mission as a political representative,” said Father Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, a member of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
The priest spoke in an article for the June 12 edition of L’Osservatore Romano.
Cotino asked for a small crucifix to be placed next to the Constitution and the Bible before being sworn in on June 9. Since one could not be found, he brought a crucifix from his own office.
Several left-wing lawmakers and organizations in Valencia, as well as the newspapers El Pais and El Plural, criticized Cotino for the act.
Cotino’s gesture, Fr. Gil Tamayo wrote, “disrupts a false tendency being imposed on European public life with regards to the nature of religious acts in general and Catholics in particular, who in practice are granted a certificate of citizenship only in the private sphere, in the limits of conscience, in the sacred space of the temple or in occasional acts of public worship.”
After recalling that Catholicism is the religion of the majority in Europe, the Spanish priest warned that some minority groups want to impose an “unhealthy secularism” that banishes all religious acts, and ultimately God, from public and political life.
Fr. Gil Tamayo, who was director of the Committee for Social Communications of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference for 13 years, also pointed out that perhaps now more than ever, Christians “need to beg for a new Pentecost and to live the faith in public and social life, in their families, with their friends, in the culture, in art, at work and at play, with responsible and joyful consistency both personally and as a community.”
“This is about being a Catholic in public as well, on the streets, with the ‘God be with you’ that we used to say,” the priest wrote.