As the situation in Catalonia unfolds after the Spanish autonomous community declared independence, a move strongly opposed by the Spanish central government, local bishops are insisting on a peaceful resolution.

Cardinal Juan José Omella Omella of Barcelona, the Catalan capital, said Oct. 27 that "as shepherd of Barcelona" he loves Catalonia and shares "the people's pain and suffering," and that his heart "weeps with them."

Cardinal Omella was in Rome the day of the Catalan declaration of independence, and he asked God to "help us avoid confrontation and build a future in peace."

"After my two years in the Diocese of Barcelona, I can say that I deeply love Barcelona and Catalonia. They are marvelous people," the cardinal emphasized.

"And I also love Spain and I love the Europe we belong to, where I received my formation as a young man."

Cardinal Omella was born in the Catalan-speaking region of Aragon, and first served as a priest in the Archdiocese of Zaragoza.

The Catalan crisis began with an Oct. 1 independence referendum, which had been declared unconstitutional and illegal by Spain's constitutional court. Ignoring the court ruling, Catalonia's separatist government proceeded with the referendum, setting the stage for sometimes violent clashes with voters as the Civil Guard and National Police attempted to stop the vote.

According to the Catalan government, 90 percent of those who voted – 43 percent of potential voters – supported independence from Spain.

The Catalan regional parliament then declared the community's independence Oct. 27.

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Spain's central government responded by announcing the dissolution of the Catalan parliament and the suspension of Catalan autonomy. The Spanish president removed from office the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, and other officials.

The Spanish government has called for regional elections in Catalonia to be held Dec. 21.

Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, president of the Spanish bishops' conference, expressed Oct. 28 his "sadness over the declaration" of independence, and reiterated "his support for the constitutional order" and its "re-establishment."  

"I am praying to God for the peaceful coexistence of all citizens," he concluded.

Cardinal Carlos Osoro Sierra of Madrid tweeted the same day: "Christ encourages us to not raise up walls, to engage one another in dialogue, and to work for social reconciliation. At this time in Spain with special urgency."