Church leaders have appealed for calm in Spain’s autonomous Catalonia region after hundreds of people were detained by the authorities and more than 800 injured during a disputed independence referendum.

Cardinal Juan José Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona, urged all parties to engage in “prayers and calm” following the vote.

“The violence experienced in Catalonia is deplorable,” he said. “We have to find a peaceful and democratic way out of this situation.”

The cardinal’s appeal came as Catalonia regional president Carles Puigdemont said in a televised address after polls closed that Catalans had “won the right to statehood”.

The vote went ahead despite Spain’s constitutional court suspending a law passed by the Catalonian parliament which said that if more than 50 per cent of voters in the referendum supported independence, the state would secede. The paramilitary Civil Guard used batons and rubber bullets to close polling stations and seize ballot boxes, triggering violence against protesters.

The president of the Tarraconense episcopal conference, which includes prelates from Barcelona and Tarragona archdioceses, urged Catholics to “trust the God of peace”.

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