Antonio María CLARET, Gesammelte Briefe. Band 2. Briefwechsel zwischen Claret und staatlichen Stellen zu Kuba, translated and edited by Wolfang Deiminger, Zürich 2018, pp. XI-608.
In a first volume published in 2014, the Claretian Fr. Wolfang Deiminger on behalf of the German Claretian Province, had offered to the German-speaking audience the letters between Claret and his great friend and collaborator, priest and later bishop, José Caixal. In this second volume he publishes the letters between the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba and later Queen Isabel II’s confessor, and the state authorities during the Cuban period (1851-1857), both from the island and from Madrid, always, however, with reference to the colony (-1868).
In the introduction to the book (“Einführung”, pp. I-XI) he explains the reason for this choice of time and characters, and what criteria he has used Very successful, although briefly, he presents the historical context of Church-State relations in Spain in general during the 19th century, and in that colony in particular. Something surely unthinkable today. Suffice it to think that a bishop needed the approval of the government even for parochial appointments, let alone for the appointment of bishops; even for the publication of a papal encyclical in the nation. Hence the necessary and continuous relationship between a bishop and the various ministries of the State and the queen. If we add to this the frequent changes of governments of diverse political tendencies, if not opposed (24 governments in only nineteen years, between 1849 and 1868), the inevitable correspondence and its extreme frequency can be understood. The government that lasted the longest was four and a half years; others only lasted a few months or just a few days, and there was even one in 1849 that lasted one day. All of which explains the frequency of situations of need for permits, if not conflict.
In Cuba, specifically, the problems were incessant and for reasons not only political, but also racial, of concubinage, slavery, the creation or reorganization of new parishes, etc. The situation of the clergy, on the other hand, when Archbishop Claret arrived, was dire: they were poorly trained, badly paid, and frequently involved in unacceptable moral situations. Add to this that they had been without a bishop for 15 years and a local priest had not been ordained for thirty years.
This volume begins with the letter addressed by Claret to the Minister of Justice, Lorenzo Arrazola (from Madrid, August 4, 1849) up to the one he sent to the Overseas Minister, Carlos Marfori y Callejas (from Madrid, July 1, 1868) . Always in relation to Cuban issues. In the edition he typographically distinguishes Claret’s texts with one type font (Palatino Linotype) and with another (Colibrí) those of the various characters addressing to the archbishop; a detail that helps the reader to distinguish them immediately.
It is a total of about 360 letters, of which more than 90 are from Claret to someone: the various captains general of Cuba, the ministers of justice or overseas, Queen Elizabeth II, in addition to some other private person, and the repeated responses sometimes of these to Claret. For this, the editor uses the texts in Spanish published in the three volumes of JM Gil’s “Epistolario Claretiano” (I, 1834-1859, Madrid 1970; II, 1859-1870, Madrid 1970; III, Madrid 1987, from which he collects letters from several years that had not been published in the two preceding volumes; with a total of 1793 documents) and the volumes of the “Passive Epistolary of San Antonio María Claret”, published this time by J.M. Bermejo (I, 1838-1857 , Madrid 1972; II 1858-1864, Madrid 1994; III, 1865-1870, Madrid 1995). Deiminger also takes advantage of part of the corresponding notes that Gil and Bermejo include for a better understanding of the authors, circumstances and motivations of said letters.
He closes the volume with a detailed index of persons (pp. 557-608) in which he gives us news of the various characters: their position, their relationship with Claret, etc., according to the different circumstances, and in which part of the book they are mentioned. The print of the entire work is very neat and easy to read. And it certainly has a great historical interest in order to know the environment and problems of a time such as the Spanish nineteenth century and Church-State relations.
Indeed, to be really appreciated and praised are the tenacious effort of Fr. W. Deiminger to carry out the publication of this volume, despite all the interruptions and difficulties caused at this time, among other things, due to the covid-19 pandemic. As well as the financial contribution of the German Claretian Province. It honours them.
Hopefully they can continue with one or more further volumes, for example, with Claret’s letters to Fr. J. Xifré or to the Claretians in general, and the respective answers, if any.
J. Rovira Arumí, c.m.f.
(Director of “Studia Claretiana”)
Claretian Spirituality Centre (CESC), Vic.