If you were a Western leader, whose help would you seek in negotiating a major political crisis? Asking a bishop and an abbot might sound like something straight out of medieval Europe, yet that’s exactly what the Catalan president has done.

As relations with Madrid broke down over last month’s illegal independence referendum, Carles Puigdemont suggested that the Archbishop of Barcelona and the Abbot of Montserrat mediate talks with the Spanish government.

The action will confuse many. Why those two clerics? And can the Church really do anything useful anyway?

Anyone who has read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia could be forgiven for thinking of the region as a hotbed of radicalism and rebellion. The latest attempt at independence, so the story goes, is yet another example of that.

Certainly Barcelona has spawned numerous radical beliefs. During the Spanish Civil War it was the spiritual home of anarchism, anti-clericalism and violent revolutionaries. That spirit is alive today in okupas – the original Occupy Wall Street movement – whose flags and banners adorn buildings across the Catalan capital.

Yet there is another Catalonia, one where Church and nation interweave, where religion sanctifies politics and homeland.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection