Courageous grandmother who led fight to stop removal of cross from plaza in Spain dies

Teresa Agulló Teresa Agulló, defender of the Cross of Callosa de Segura in Spain. | Credit: Platform in Defense of the Cross of Callosa de Segura

Teresa Agulló Cayuelas, a woman who was fined for her efforts to prevent the removal of an emblematic cross in Callosa de Segura, a small town in southeastern Spain, died March 23 at the age of 87.

In 1941 the cross was erected on a large pedestal and stood close to the wall in the plaza of St. Martin’s Church.

When the leftist city government ordered the cross to be taken down, Agulló led the neighborhood in protests against its removal.

At one point when the city decided not to wait for an impending court decision and sent a crew to take down the cross, people chained themselves around the monument, preventing the crew from removing it.

Protesters prevented them from removing the cross in Callosa de Segura, Spain, in December 2016. Credit: AEAC
Protesters prevented them from removing the cross in Callosa de Segura, Spain, in December 2016. Credit: AEAC

The cross was eventually removed. With the cross gone, Agulló projected from her balcony across the street an image of the cross on the church wall and was fined on several occasions for it.

The bishop of Orihuela-Alicante, José Ignacio Munilla, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that he he planned to go to the funeral chapel located in the “La luz” funeral home in Albatera, a neighboring town of Callosa, and will pray a “responsum,” part of the funeral rites for the deceased, for Agulló.

Providentially, Munilla had already planned to go to Callosa de Segura to attend the Sorrowful Virgin pilgrimage on March 24.

The bishop commented on Agulló’s death the morning of March 24 with a post on Twitter citing St. Matthew’s Gospel: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”

The president of the platform in Defense of the Cross of Callosa de Segura, Toni Illán, expressed his trust in God at this time of mourning: “For us it is a glorious day, because today she has reached her goal.”

Speaking with ACI Prensa, Illán expressed his conviction that Agulló “will be remembered as a holy woman and not only for her defense of the cross. Her faith translated into works.”

Agulló led for many years a diocesan ministry that takes the sick on pilgrimage to Lourdes. She was well known for her work with the parish’s Caritas and promoted an association to help the disabled in her town.

Agulló was married to Francisco Pina, who served from 1979 to 1983 as the first mayor of Callosa de Segura. The couple had four children, one of whom had Down syndrome. She had eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The cross of Callosa de Segura

In March 2016, the socialist mayor of Callosa de Segura pushed a motion to remove the cross adjacent to St. Martin Church, invoking the Historical Memory Law.

Passed in 2007, the law has the declared objective of compensating those who suffered persecution or violence during the Civil War by the Nationalist side in the conflict and later during the 40 years of General Franco’s government.

Another provision of the law calls for “the appropriate measures for the removal of shields, insignia, plaques, and other objects or commemorative mentions of exaltation, personal or collective, of the [Nationalist] military uprising, of the Civil War [which the Nationalists won] and of the repression of the [Franco Nationalist] dictatorship.” 

More in Europe

Cross in the square of the church of San Martín, in Callosa de Segura, Spain. Credit: Citizen Platform in Defense of the Cross
Cross in the square of the church of San Martín, in Callosa de Segura, Spain. Credit: Citizen Platform in Defense of the Cross

Monuments belonging to the Catholic Church were expressly exempt.

The Cross of Callosa de Segura was erected in 1941 in memory of the 81 residents who were killed by the Republican side during the Civil War, including two priests, ages 29 and 40.

When the intention to remove the cross was announced, the Guardians Platform to preserve the monument was organized in the town, which prevented its removal for months until January 2018, when it was taken down.

The neighbors didn’t stop preserving the memory of their cross and on occasion set up wooden crosses where the original cross had stood, which the city government ordered the local police to remove.

Then came the idea to project an image of the monument in bright light  on the façade of the church from the balcony of Agulló’s house. The city government fined her numerous times, alleging that she was not complying with municipal ordinances.

Since then, always on designated dates, the image of the cross has shone on the church façade. It was also to be projected March 24 in honor and memory of Agulló and will be whenever there is a great occasion, Illán told ACI Prensa. 

(Story continues below)

‘A good, sincere, brave, and generous woman’

The Spanish Foundation of Christian Lawyers has provided counsel in the legal battle by the town residents in defense of the cross.

Polonia Castellanos, president of the foundation, said Agulló “was a good, sincere, courageous, and generous-hearted woman. People like her are an inspiration to care for our families and for what matters in Spain.”

“I promised her that I would not rest until the cross is replaced, and I will do that,” Castellanos said.

Agulló’s determination was recognized by the HazteOir.org (CitizenGo) platform, which gave her one of its annual awards in 2018.

On that occasion, she stated: “Despite whoever it may be, with your belligerent attitude you have achieved one thing: That with each passing day we remain more firm in our faith and in the fight for Christian values and our great universal symbol, the cross of Christ.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.