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23-04-2019 14.49

Institutional declaration by President Quim Torra for the Diada de Sant Jordi (St. George's Day)

Institutional declaration by President Quim Torra for the Diada de Sant Jordi (St. George's Day) President delivers message from the Gothic gallery of the Palau de la Generalitat. Photograph: Jordi Bedmar
My Fellow Citizens,
 
It is an honour and a pleasure to address you as president of the Government of Catalonia on the Diada de Sant Jordi. Today is a very special day for Catalans because today we celebrate our existence as a country, and we do so in a magnificent way: by exchanging roses and books.
 
Roses and books capture a way of understanding the values of life and community that defines us as Catalans. On the one hand, love, beauty, flourishing life; on the other, stories, language and the words that allow us to communicate. Roses and books – elements that define a people who, like all of the world’s peoples, have experienced times of plenitude and times of hardship.
 
Catalonia is built around a few core ideas: social harmony, the will to exist, and a sense of cultural identity combined with openness and engagement with the world. Fidelity to the Catalan language is also one of the pillars that underpins our culture. Catalan is a language that’s been persecuted and banned over the centuries, and one that even today has adversaries, laws and institutions that seem intent on making it disappear. Sant Jordi is a day on which we stand up for our language, which is our great contribution to the cultural richness of the world.
 
It’s a day when we affirm the value of cultural richness and diversity, free expression, literature, love and solidarity; an expression of public-spiritedness of the highest order. And it’s a day of celebration that we should be proud of and fully embrace.
 
This special day has a long history. In the 15th century, the Corts Catalanes [the policy-making and parliamentary body of the Principality of Catalonia], meeting here in the Palau, declared the Diada de Sant Jordi an official holiday for all. Like Catalonia itself, this holiday has deep historical roots, but it’s a living tradition because it has much to offer for the future.
 
Sant Jordi is the greatest expression of the open and determined character of Catalans. I invite you to participate and live this special celebration with us.
 
Catalonia has always been a country of civility, culture and literature. It is a welcoming country that has incorporated diversity and new identities into our genuine expression of commitment to our Catalan language and identity.
 
As Catalans, we are living in difficult times. After giving voice to the citizens to decide the political future of Catalonia, some members of the previous government are now in prison or exile because of the repression of the Kingdom of Spain. For this reason, Sant Jordi's Day is different the last two years and we must call for their freedom.
 
We once again ask for the involvement of Europe and the international community to resolve this conflict in a democratic way. Political trials cannot be tolerated. A democracy cannot tolerate the voice of the people being silenced with violence and threats. The resolution of the political conflict between Catalonia and Spain is an opportunity for democracy around the world.
 
For the second year running, we’ll be celebrating Sant Jordi with political prisoners and exiles – friends and colleagues, committed democrats, locked up in prison or forced to live far from home for having defended the most fundamental rights and freedoms. We should think of them more than ever today and send them our warmth and support.
 
We wish you a happy name day, Jordis and Jordines. Today is your special day, and with so much going on, perhaps it will go unnoted. Sant Jordi is the patron saint of Catalonia and we should celebrate this day joyfully and wholeheartedly. Our patron saint is a brave and generous knight who embodies the spirit of a people who have fought many dragons and have never accepted defeat.
 
During the Catalan Renaissance of the early 19th century, Catalans had the insight to recognise Sant Jordi as the nation’s hero. As Joan Maragall said, “When a people choose a hero as their patron saint, it is because they want to constantly relive his heroism. […] It is not enough to celebrate the holiday: we must constantly renew the battle and the victory.”

In a remarkable mosaic on the Casa de les Punxes, the [Catalan Modernista architect] Josep Puig i Cadafalch left these words: “Patron saint of Catalonia, give us back our freedom.”
 
So today, like every year, but with even greater determination, let us renew our fight for the return and victory of freedom.
 
Happy Sant Jordi’s Day! Long live Catalonia!
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