Row over tribute to a saint in Spanish parliament

Madrid, Spain - A plan to pay tribute to a Catholic saint in the Spanish parliament was cancelled Wednesday, while parliament president Jose Bono came under criticism for calling his Socialist party comrades "sons of a bitch" over the decision. The parliamentary committee had earlier agreed to place a plaque in the parliament building in honour of Saint Maravillas de Jesus, a nun who was born in a building now belonging to the parliamentary complex in 1891.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists and other leftist parties opposed the initiative on the grounds that the state was non-confessional.

The debate also reflected Spain's political divisions in that Maravillas was described as a highly conservative saint by leftist media.

She was canonized partly on the basis of having suffered threats from leftists during Spain's 1936-39 civil war, according to the daily El Pais. Maravillas died in a convent in 1974.

Bono, a Socialist but also a practising Catholic, was caught by television microphones calling his party comrades "sons of a bitch" when talking to three conservative legislators.

Bono said Wednesday he had not meant to offend anyone. Zapatero and other Socialists said they had not minded the comment at all.