Tuesday, January 25

Xavier Novell, the bishop who resigned for love | Catalonia

Solsona's emeritus bishop, Xavier Novell, in a 2012 file image.
Solsona’s emeritus bishop, Xavier Novell, in a 2012 file image.Marcel·lí Sàenz

Xavier Novell resigned as bishop of Solsona (Lleida) for something so special, and at the same time so mundane, like love. Novell surprised locals and strangers last August by informing the bishopric that the Pope had accepted his resignation “for personal reasons.” The mystery was revealed this Sunday when it was learned that the bishop emeritus maintains a romantic relationship with a woman.

The person for whom Novell has given a radical life change is SB, a woman from Manresa (Barcelona), divorced and with two children. She is a psychologist and appears on the internet as the author of several erotic literature novels. Two parish priests of the diocese of Solsona have confirmed the news to EL PAÍS, advanced by Digital Religion. One of them, Fermí Manteca, had been rector of Súria, her family municipality. The family has indicated to this newspaper that the woman will not comment on the information that has appeared “nor will she grant interviews.” None of the sources consulted knows how and when the couple met.

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Novell will continue as bishop emeritus of Solsona, according to the doctor in Canon Law Francisco Cardona. Most likely, Cardona indicates, Novell will ask the Holy See for a dispensation from the promise of celibacy and obedience. This would return the prelate to lay status, without leaving the Church. This process is long in time because it requires a detailed study of the facts and the declaration of the people involved.

Novell had been absent from the bishopric for weeks before and after his resignation. The canon of Canon Law by which the Pope accepted the resignation establishes that it occurs “if due to illness or other serious cause his capacity to perform it is diminished”. His strong personality and the way he ran the diocese, carrying out profound reforms in its structure, earned him numerous enmity among the rectors under his apostolate. It was speculated that his step back was due to discouragement, frustration at not having the sympathy of the curia, and also to verify that his ambitious goals of increasing the number of faithful were not being met.

The possibility of maintaining insurmountable differences with the more progressive line marked by Pope Francis in the Catholic Church was also considered. It was even proposed that it was a maneuver to merge the small bishopric of Solsona with that of Vic. The Pope appointed the bishop of Vic, Romà Casanova, as apostolic administrator of the diocese while the position left by Novell is vacant. All these hypotheses were insufficient to explain a very unusual event: the resignation of a bishop. And more, being one of the youngest in Europe (Novell is 52 years old).

Manteca, who was one of the priests critical of his way of running the diocese, regrets that Novell did not say goodbye to his priests and parishioners. “We priests learned the news from the press release, no explanations were given,” says Josep Maria Besora, priest of Solsona. Besora defends Novell’s right to privacy: “In the last few days I received three messages about this woman, and each message said something different. I don’t know anything about this matter, and whether it’s true or a lie, they are the bishop’s personal reasons ”.

Religious of the bishopric consulted by this newspaper assure that only the Pope’s nuncio and a few at the top of the Spanish Episcopal Conference – the cardinal of Barcelona, ​​Juan José Omella, is its president – knew what had happened. The bishop just disappeared.


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