Catalan bishop Xavier Novell asks for work in cooperatives and organisations

The until recently head of the Solsona diocese wanted to "evangelise" the young people of Mollerussa through the town's scout movement

Josep A. Pérez
3 min
The bishop of Solsona, Xavier Novell, in a religious act in March 2020.

MollerussaHis eleven years as bishop in Solsona guaranteed Xavier Novell a close relationship with the social and business fabric of the Ponent region and with the local administrations in matters of heritage. Perhaps these ties with the territory are what explain why Novell, an agricultural technical engineer by training, has knocked on several doors in Pla d'Urgell to reorient his professional future when the surprise at his sudden resignation from the bishopric is still far from dying down. He has been in contact with the Cooperativa d'Ivars and other social organisations in the area. Although initially a close source indicated that it was Grup Alba, the organisation denied it in a tweet this morning, adding, however, that it would not be strange if it had done so because they have "a job placement service open to everyone".

Novell's decision to leave the bishopric has generated all kinds of reactions among those who were his parishioners. Before becoming the youngest bishop in Spain, Novell was preceded by a career in the Ponent region, where the opinion about the priest, at least at the beginning, was divided between those who believed him to be a reformist because of his youth and his way of being and those who assure that at that time they already saw his conservative and somewhat autocratic disposition, in spite of the image of closeness that he exuded.

The parish of Sant Jaume de Mollerussa was his first pastoral destination, in 1997, and he worked there until 2001. In the capital of Pla d'Urgell they received the new priest as a representative of the new generations of the Church, explain members of the parish. However, after the first four years, they add, Novell enthused the most conservative and became a disappointment for the most reformist. With the news of his departure from the bishopric, the parishioners of Mollerussa who placed their trust in him also feel disappointed by someone they considered a young person with a "great faith". Sources consulted by the ARA believe that the bishop "made a mistake" and that "something was wrong with him".

The younger residents of Mollerussa say that Novell was "a young priest but with the attitude of an old man". Among the most disappointed are the members of the Mollerussa scout group, who had a crusade with the bishop, who wanted the scouts to become "evangelisers" of young people. In this way they could save on catechesis for the first communion, say the group's leaders.

In fact, the relationship between Novell and the In fact, the relationship between Novell and the scouts did not end well. After having their headquarters on the ground floor of the parish, the priest did not renew their agreement because they did not accept his postulates, discussed in long meetings in Solsona. "It was impossible to talk to him, he showed signs of despotism", the same sources say.

Perplexity in the diocese

Novell presented his resignation on 23 August and was immediately accepted by Pope Francis. Since that day it is not known where he is and he has not given any explanations. He did not even say goodbye to his diocesan priests, who are still perplexed by the decision and the reasons for it, which have appeared in the media. The reason for his sudden goodbye could be that he has a relationship with a woman, a fact contrary to the vow of chastity to which the Church obliges its priests.

"We are still in the dark, we know nothing, but sooner or later everything will be known", explained some of the rectors consulted by Efe, who, prudently, closely follow everything that is emerging about the case. The dean of the Solsona cathedral, Lluís Grifell, who had a close relationship with Novell, recalls in statements to Efe that he noticed he was "absent-minded" and recalls that perhaps "in some mass he had forgotten something", but adds that he attributed it to the fact that "he had many worries" and did not give it importance.

On the character of the Solsona bishop, Grifell calls it peculiar and recognises that there are sectors that may be more hurt by what has happened, while others may even "rejoice". "Novell had some very radical positions that were not shared by everone", adds the dean of the cathedral. "Something very strange has happened, I don't think he will adapt to another way of life, I have the feeling that he will suffer a lot", concludes Grifell.