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The Church in Valencia

The Christian Valencian community would like to transmit its history, dating back to the first times of Christianity when the Apostles spread the Good News about Jesus Christ from the East to the known lands of the Hispanic West.

click here to enlarge this imageIn 304, during Diocletian's persecution, the Bishop of Cesaraugusta (Zaragoza) Valero and his deacon Vincent were taken to Valentia. The last one suffered such an admirable martyrdom that became known and celebrated by the Christian community. Aurelio Prudencio's hymns, Saint Agustin's homilies and the accounts of Saint Vincent's passion made him the most popular martyr in the Latin Church. Such popularity derived in the foundation of towns, monasteries and cathedrals with his name like in Cordoba, Sevilla and Bergamo.

During the Roman and Visigoth period, some local churches appeared in Diana (Denia), Ilice (Elche), Saetabis (Xàtiva), Elo (Lorca or Hellín) and Valentia (Valencia). We know the names of most bishops because of their signatures in the councils of the 4th - 8th centuries. This Christian culture and life stayed in silence under the Islam, having martyrs like Saint Bernard and his sisters Mary and Grace (1189) or the devout Franciscans Juan de Perusa and Pedro de Saxoferrato (1231). The Christian worship was not interrupted in the Saint Vincent's crypt basilica (the Roqueta), out of town, resulting in this mozarabic church to Saint Peter Pascual, later Bishop of Jaen and martyr in Granada in 1300.

click here to enlarge this imageThe settlement of the Valencian kingdom by James I of Aragon opened a new period under the first Bishop Ferrer of Pallarés. Communities from the northern Aragon Crown began to settle down as well as religious and military orders and a new organization of dioceses, leaving the Tortosa diocese in the north of the kingdom, restoring the ones of Segorbe and Valencia and finally creating the diocese of Orihuela in the 16th century (1564).

From the 13th to the 15th century the Valencia Church kept evangelizing continuously, aiming at not only Muslims and Jews but also at strengthening Christians' faith living in these lands. The Schism of the West was of great significance for Christianity, which took place after the death of Benedict XIII (the Aragonese Pedro de Luna) in Peñíscola (Castellón) in 1424 and the resignation of his successor Clemente VIII (Gil Sánchez Muñoz, born in Teruel and canon of the Valencia Cathedral) in the village of San Mateo (Castellón) in 1429. During the transition from the 14th to the 15th century, a turbulent period with epidemics and wars, the Dominican Saint Vincent Ferrer (Valencia 1350 - Vannes, Bretaña, 1419) succeeded in the evangelist mission promoting peace in Valencia, Spain and Western Europe. In 1410, he founded in Valencia the current Imperial School for Orphaned Children which adopted his name.

The Holy Chalice of the last Lord's Supper

In the 15th century, the first European hospital is created in Valencia by Brother Gilabert Jofre, in order to take care of people with mental diseases. Our Lady of the Forsaken is the patroness, who inspires a deep social and charitable sense to the Valencians' religiosity. In this same century, in 1437, King Alfonso V The Magnanimous handed over the reliquary of the Aragon Crown to the Valencia Cathedral, in which treasure was the Holy Chalice that had been kept in the monastery of Saint Juan de la Peña (Huesca) up to 1399.

click here to enlarge this imageRome and Valencia were closely related in this period due to the Borgia family, who was from Aragon but settled in Xativa. Alfonso Borgia belonged to this family. He was Bishop of Valencia and Cardinal, and was chosen Pope under the name of Callixtus III in 1455. His nephew Rodrigo Borgia was his successor in the Valencian see and held Peter's See in Rome since 1492, under the name of Alexander VI. A bit earlier, the church of Valencia had become in Metropolitan, separating from Tarragona, having as the first suffragans the dioceses of Mallorca, Menorca, Segorbe and Cartagena. Callixtus III is remembered for having a personal insistence in saving Europe from the Turkish invasion, which finished with the victory of Belgrade. However, he ordered a new trial for Joan of Arc in 1456 and canonized Saint Vincent Ferrer. Alexander VI supported Isabella the Catholic in evangelizing America after being discovered, and was the arbitrator in the allocation of the Atlantic territories between Spain and Portugal. In the 16th century, another Valencian Borgia, later forth Duke of Gandia, Saint Grancisco Borgia (+1572), would be the second successor of St. Ignacio de Loyola as General of the Jesus' Company.

click here to enlarge this imageLike in every church, the accumulation of benefits and the absence of Bishops in their sees, together with other misfortunes of feudalism, caused decadence and confusion in the religious life resulting in an unpleasant reaction leading to the Protestant Reformation and the powerful catholic answer that began in the Council of Trent. But in our diocese, the genuine reformation had started with the arrival of the Augustinian Archbishop Saint Tomas de Villanueva (+1555), an example of austerity and charity, supported by Valencian religious members and priests like the venerable Agnesio. He started the reformation of the clergy and the town, among other things, with the foundation of the College of the Presentation of Our Lady, antecedent of the Tridentine seminaries existing in Valencia so far. This fact resulted in the long papacy of St. Juan de Ribera (+1611) when the expulsion of the moriscoes took place as well as the Christian repopulation of many territories. This holy Archbishop wished to leave a testimony of the catholic faith and mercy of the Eucharist suggested in Trent and expressed in the liturgy, founding the Corpus Christi Royal Seminary College. It is in Valencia and works as an educational and spiritual centre for priests, being at the same time one of the most beautiful monuments, where the customs disposed by the holy Founder in his Constitutions are still alive.

The church has recognized the saintliness of several religious members of this period, like the blessed Nicolás Factor (+1583), Andrés Hibernón (+1602), Gaspar de Bono (+1604), Josefa María de Santa Inés (+1696) and the saints Luís Bertrán (+1581), evangeliser and patron of Colombia and Pascual Bailón (+1592), patron of the Eucharistic associations. Finally, the blessed Francisco Gálvez (+1632) and St Jacinto María Castañeda (+1773) are among many Valencians that offered their lives for the Gospel in the Far East.

In the 18th century Archbishops from Valencia, especially Mr. Andrés Mayoral (1738-1769) and Mr. Francisco Fabián y Fuero I offered great resources of the Church to the clergy and town under the sign of the catholic religion. Educational institutions were created, public works were developed and the most beautiful and spacious parish churches in baroque and neoclassical style were built. They welcomed the growing population of the Valencian towns and cities. Those new temples, whose peculiar bell towers characterize our landscape, were decorated by excellent painters and sculptors of the St. Charles Royal Academy.

The complete restoration of the Valencia and Segorbe cathedrals, hiding their original gothic structure, and the foundation of the Diocesan Seminaries of Valencia, Segorbe and Orihuela were symbols of this cultural and religious renewal. The religious life underwent a critical change after the expulsion of the Jesuits, but it benefited from the cultural and educational work of other orders like the Piarists and the Oratorians of St Felipe Neri.

Signos de esta renovación cultural y religiosa fueron la total remodelación de las catedrales de Valencia y Segorbe, ocultando su estructura original gótica, y la fundación de los Seminarios Diocesanos de Valencia, Segorbe y Orihuela. La vida religiosa se resintió gravemente por la expulsión de los Jesuitas, pero se benefició de la obra cultural y educativa de otras órdenes como los Escolapios y los Oratorianos de San Felipe Neri.

Between the 17th and the 18th century, “The Mystery Play of Elche” reached its greatest splendour. It is a sacred drama performed in 13th century Valencian, and dramatizes the Assumption and Crowning of Virgin Mary. This outstanding musical composition is celebrated each year on 14 and 15 August in the Basilica of Saint Mary in Elche. It has been proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The same happened with the festivity of Corpus Christi that began to be celebrated in cities such as Morella, Xàtiva and Valencia during the 14th century preserving in the last one the triumphant carriages or “Rocas” (Rocks), the dances, the sacred performances or “mysteries”, the biblical characters, the professional and social associations, like when this procession displayed the wealth and diversity of those cities in their past. Indeed, the feasts of “The Virgin of August” and “Corpus Christi” show the devotion of the Valencian Christians to the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist.

click here to enlarge this imageThe Independence War marked the beginning of the 19th century, un unsettled period for our Church, which underwent the persecution and the extinction of the religious orders that re-emerged quite diminished like the consequences of the disentailment laws (1834 and 1837) involving the complete disappearing of the male monastic orders. Large monasteries like the chartreuse of Vall de Crist (Altura, Castellón), the Cistercian abbey of Saint Mary of the Valldigna (Simat de la Valldigna, Valencia) and the Hieronymite monastery of San Miguel de los Reyes (Valencia) experienced a collapse from which only the last one has recovered recently, becoming into the Valencian Community Library. About the middle of the century, the recovery of the religious life started with the construction of the new Immaculate of Valencia Metropolitan Seminary by the Cardinal Antolín Monescillo and Viso (1890), later turned into the Pontifical University by Pope Leo XIII (1897), under the running of the canon Niceto Alonso Perujo, author of the great Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Sciences (1883-1890), together with Juan Pérez Angulo. He was also author of one of the best editions of the Summa Theologica by Saint Thomas Aquinas. In both works there was another collaborator, later Archbishop of Sevilla, Salvador Castellote Pinazo.

New religious orders of social and educational nature were also founded in Valencia such as The Adorers of Saint María Micaela of the Blessed Sacrament (+1865), The Sisters of the Forlorn Old People, work of Saint Theresa of Jesus Jornet (+1897), the Servants of Immaculate Mary, founded by the Blessed Juana Maria Condesa Lluch (+1916) and other institutes of consecrated life like the Betania collaborators, Christian Doctrine Sisters, Immaculate Franciscans, Catechists, Workers of the Divine Master (Hail Mary devouts), Trinitarians, Amigonians, Capuchines; as well as the foundation of Secular Institutes like the Cross Workers, Lumen Christi and Social Apostolate Members. The Secular Virgin of Algemesí Josefa Naval Girbés (+ 1893), was the symbol for the new religious and social drive of the parish churches, beatified in 1988. The permanent activity of the Valencian missionaries offered two new martyrs to the Church, the Blessed Francisco Bolta and Francisco Pinazo, Franciscans (+ Damasco, 1864).

click here to enlarge this imageThe religious life in Valencia during the first third of the 20th century was marked, like in all Spain, by the political crisis and social upheaval. During that period many religious, educational and social acts were initiated such as catholic trade unions in the industry and agriculture. The constant opposition from one sector of the social forces against the Church and its values worsened since the creation of the Spanish Republic II in 1931 and finished with the religious persecution, particularly cruel during the first months of the Civil War (1936-1939), driving numerous priests to martyrdom, members of religious orders and laymen from Valencia, Castellón and Alicante, whose testimony of Jesus Christ has been accepted by the Church with the beatification of the lay martyr Vicente Vilar David (+1937), the Mother Ángeles Lloret Martí and her Sisters of the Christian Doctrine (+1936) and the priest José Aparicio Sanz and 232 martyr companions, monks and laymen, beatified by Pope John Paul II on 11 March 2001.

After the Civil War, the Valencian dioceses undertook a challenging work to carry out a material and spiritual recovery, promoting the reconciliation among citizens, a social and cultural progress through the development of housing and cooperatives, the creation of primary, secondary and professional schools as well as other initiatives.

New Seminaries and parish churches were founded in order to assist the rapid growth of the cities supported by Charity for the needy. The Lay Apostolate was organized in different ways, with the boom of the Catholic Action, which achievements were led by Archbishop Marcelino Olaechea y Loizaga (1946-1966). In 1959, dioceses were delimited and appeared new designations of Segorbe-Castellón y Orihuela-Alicante.

En el año 1959 tuvo lugar una nueva delimitación de los límites diocesanos, apareciendo las nuevas denominaciones de las diócesis de Segorbe Castellón y Orihuela-Alicante.

click here to enlarge this imageThe celebration of the Vatican Ecumenical Council II (1962-1965), together with a political change towards a more complete democracy, started in 1975 under the reign of Juan Carlos I and the new social and cultural movements led to a reconsideration of the religious life that was reduced to Diocesan Synods like the one in Valencia (1987), presided by the Archbishop Miguel Roca Cabanellas (1978-1992).

The formation of the clergy and the faithful received a new boost with the founding of the Faculty of Theology “San Vicente Ferrer” in Valencia 1974, originated by the Archbishop Servant of God Jose María García Lahiguera (1969-1978) and the Diocesan Institute of Religious Sciences, founded by the Archbishop Roca having sees in the whole territory of the Valencian Archdiocese. On 8 November 1982, Valencia welcomed Pope John Paul II, in a stage of his visit to Spain. He ordained one hundred and fifty priests in the Holy Mass celebrated at the Alameda Avenue.
Our Church celebrated the great Jubilee 2000 and the 17th Centenary of St Vincent's martyrdom (2004) with the current Archbishop Agustín García-Gasco Vicente (1992)and prospered with outstanding cultural and religious works such as the foundation of the advanced educational centres like Cardinal Herrera University, CEU (2000), the St. Vincent the Martyr Catholic University and the building of new temples in the capital and towns of the archdiocese.

click here to enlarge this imageSince 1999, different and magnificent exhibitions of religious art have been celebrated at cathedrals and churches of the Valencian Community in collaboration with the Valencian Generalitat. These exhibitions have been displayed under the name “La luz de las Imágenes” (The light of the Images). They show the importance and the religious meaning of our historic-artistic heritage. This led to a complete refurbishment of its sees, starting with the cathedrals of Valencia (1999), Segorbe (2001), Orihuela (2003), the parish of St. Matthew in Castellón and the diocese of Tortosa (2005), Alicante (2006) and Xátiva (2007).

click here to enlarge this imageThe growth of a familiar pastoral on a solid doctrinal base has resulted, in 1994, in the creation of a John Paul II Pontifical Institute in Valencia. It was founded for the family as well as the Valencian Institute of Canon Law (2000). This increasing defence for the family and the rich variety of activities for the same cause were the reasons that caused the election by John Paul II to welcome The Fifth World Meeting of Families on 8 and 9 July 2006, presided by Pope Benedict XVI.

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