Aureli Maria Escarré was Abbot of Montserrat and became famous for statements he made to Le Monde in 1963 defending the Catalan right to identity, which angered the Franco Regime and led him to being expelled from Spain in 1965.
Aureli Maria Escarré i Jané was born in L'Arboç on April 15th 1908. He entered the Abbey of Montserrat as a monk in 1923 and was ordained as a priest in 1933.
After the military uprising of July 19th 1936, as a result of the persecution by elements of CNT and FAI, he managed to flee to Italy thanks to the protection of the Generalitat of Catalonia.
In 1938 he arrived in Zaragoza and in January 1938, Escarré returned to the Monastery of Montserrat and was confirmed as prior before the arrival of the Francoist troops.
In 1941, he was named Coadjutor Abbot to Abbot Marcet and decided to modernise the community by encouraging monks to study abroad and supporting research into the liturgy, the Bible and culture in general.
His first major initiative was the Enthronement of the Mare de Déu de Montserrat in 1947, which was promoted by the Comissió Abat Oliba, and was one of the early affirmations of Catalan identity in the post-Civil War period.
At the time, Escarré was on very good terms with the Francoist authorities and was even friendly with General Franco and his wife.
He was part of the Acadèmia de Llengua Catalana and he also gave his support to Catalan language publications, such as Germinàbit, Serra d'Or, Qüestions de Vida Cristiana and Studia Monastica, which began to bring him into conflict with the Franco Regime.
The event that put him down in the annals of Catalan history took place on November 14th 1963, when Abbot Escarré made statements to the French newspaper Le Monde that were in open opposition to the Regime.
The interview was conducted by José-Antonio Novais, who had been suggested Josep Benet and Albert Manent, and was given in the context of the Vatican's 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, which emphasised human rights and the democratic rights of stateless minorities.
In the interview, Escarré demanded that the Spanish state allow the use of the Catalan language in schools and the media, which was forbidden at the time.
The problem for the Franco Regime was that its ideology was officially National Catholicism so a statement describing Spain as "a State that doesn't obey the basic principles of Christianity" was a profound challenge.
Escarré wanted the people to be able to choose its government democratically, the freedom of the press, an end to the atmosphere of the civil war and also defended the Catalan language not as "an obligation, but rather a necessity; when language is lost, religion tends to be lost as well".
A few days later, Omnium Cultural was closed down and the Casal de Montserrat in Barcelona was attacked.
In 1965, the Franco Government he was forced into exile in a Monastery in Lombardy and in 1988 he was forced to resign as Abbot of Montserrat.
Plagued by illness, Aureli Maria Escarré was brought to Barcelona, where he died on October 21st 1968, and was buried at Montserrat.
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