Portugal to Suppress Two Religious Holidays

OXFORD, England (CNS) – Portuguese Catholic officials criticized government plans to suppress two religious public holidays as part of an austerity drive and urged postponing the plans until next year.
Father Manuel Morujao, spokesman for the Portuguese bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service that church officials understand that government leaders are trying to solve the nation’s economic crisis by improving economic competitiveness. In addition to removing two religious holidays, the government plans to eliminate Portugal’s Oct. 5 Republic Day and Dec. 1 Independence Restoration Day.
The religious holidays will be negotiated between the Foreign Ministry in Lisbon and Vatican officials, under the terms of Portugal’s 2004 concordat with the Vatican.
Father Morujao said the bishops’ conference had agreed to remove the feast of Corpus Christi, this year June 7, as a holiday.
However, he added the bishops had called for the reform to be postponed until 2013, rather than introduced immediately, and had requested that the second day should be the Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day, rather than the Aug. 15 feast of the Assumption, proposed by the government.
Eliminating All Saints’ Day as a holiday could cause problems, since many people use the holiday to honor the dead in cemeteries, “but this would be better than to abolish Assumption Day,” the priest said.
The Catholic Church makes up approximately 80% of the 10.3 million residents of Portugal, which has been severely affected by recession and unemployment during Europe’s financial crisis.