Spanish Church Seeks to Canonize Isabella I

The Council of Bishops of the Catholic Church in Spain decided last week to ask Pope John Paul II to move forward with the canonization of Queen Isabella I, who, together with her husband, King Ferdinand, was responsible for expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492. The decision was severely criticized by Spain's Jewish community.

The president of the Jewish Federation of Spain, Carlos Schorr, told Ha'aretz that to the best of his knowledge, the Vatican was opposed to this request. "Every few years, the Spanish church submits a similar request, and the Vatican evades it," he said.

Schorr added that Queen Isabella I was greatly admired by the Catholic Church in Spain because of her support for the endeavors of Christopher Columbus that led to the discovery of the Americas and hence "the spread of Christianity to the New World."

"As a Jew," Schorr said, "I don't care who the church wants to canonize. But as a Spanish citizen, I am surprised that in the 21st century, the church sees an individual like that as an example for other people."

The secretary of the Council of Bishops of the Spanish church, Juan Jose Asenjo, said that the request for the canonization of Queen Isabella I stemmed from the fact that "her high religious and moral stature made her a model Christian," stressing that the request had nothing to do with her "political activities."

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism, told Ha'aretz that he was unaware of any such request on the part of the Spanish church.