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Spanish Church to excommunicate ETA terrorists

    Spain's Catholic Church plans to excommunicate all members of the Basque separatist terrorist organisation ETA.
    According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, has proposed the excommunication order, which will be voted on at the bishops' conference later this month.
    Cardinal Rouco said the initiative was being taken by the Church as "a response to the greatest ecclesiastical crisis in democratic times". The decision followed widespread criticism of the Church's passive stance towards ETA, especially from the Madrid government.
    The archbishop of the armed forces, Jose Manuel Estepa, said: "There is no doubt on the legitimacy of the application of excommunication, for terrorist activity is the most serious crime against humanity and freedom." The Church must take steps to distance itself from any association with terrorists, he added.
    Canonist José María Díaz Moreno of Comillas and Salamanca said, "Unfortunately, the dissuading effect of excommunication on the terrorists will be virtually nil. However, I understand that, in addition to attempting to avoid the crime, the laws have a pedagogic and exemplary purpose -- in our case, to make the Church's judgment on the extreme gravity of terrorism even more explicit."
    Since 1968, the ETA separatist group has been responsible for 800 deaths.
Electronic Telegraph/Zenit