Despite a new spirit of cooperation among all Christian denominations in Spain, church attendance is declining because "freedom of religion has meant freedom from religion for many Spaniards," according to a bishop of the Episcopal Reformed Church of Spain.

Bishop Ramon Taibo made the remarks while visiting former Cuban refugees who had used his cathedral in Madrid as a temporary haven on their way to Miami.

Bishop Taibo said that since soldiers no longer are required to attend mass and it is no longer necessary to be seen in a Spanish Catholic church for political reasons, "many do not attend."

The bishop also said improved economic conditions in the newly-democratic nation have given city dwellers the option of going to the countryside instead of the church on Sunday.

Bishop Taibo, who spent five years in prison for preaching as a Presbyterian minister, became an Episcopal priest in 1962 and was consecrated a bishop in 1967, the year, he said, when Prostestant churches came out in the open in Spain. Not until 1974 were such churches allowed to place identifying signs on their meeting places.

All churches now have the freedom to advertise, publish and distribute literature and preach publicly, he said, adding that cooperation among all Christian denominations in Spain is increasing.

Currently, there are about 1,300 members in 16 parishes and missions of the Episcopal Reformed Church in Spain. The denomination is growing and the "people are learning to support their church," which receives a $10,000 annual gift from the Episcopal Church in the United States, the bishop said.

The denomination grew out of a spilt in the Catholic Church in 1870 about the doctrine of papal infallibility which has been defined and proclaimed at the First Vatican Council a few years earlier.

Bishop Taibo's cathedral in Madrid was a stopover for many Cuban refugees who later settle in the Miami area. He was visiting some of them and spoke to others during a service at Todos Los Santos church, described as the only self-sustaining Hispanic parish in the U.S. Episcopal Church.