Spanish king appeals for unity amid Catalan secession bid

Spain's King Felipe VI and his wife Queen Letizia wave to the crowd with their daughters Princess Leonor, left, and Princess Sofia after their arrival

Spain's King Felipe VI and his wife Queen Letizia wave to the crowd with their daughters Princess Leonor, left, and Princess Sofia after their arrival

Spain's former King Juan Carlos waves to the crowd next to Spain's parliament speaker Ana Pastor after celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Spa

Spain's former King Juan Carlos waves to the crowd next to Spain's parliament speaker Ana Pastor after celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Spa

MADRID (AP) — Spanish King Felipe VI has called for a spirit of national reconciliation, understanding and unity as his country confronts an effort by Catalan political leaders to take the region out of Spain.

The monarch said in a speech Thursday marking the 40th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution that the document binds Spaniards while "respecting our differences and our diversity."

He did not make specific reference to the secession crisis triggered by Catalonia, but that wealthy northeastern region's breakaway bid is partly inspired by what its people say are cultural differences from the rest of Spain.

The king harshly criticized the Catalan government as disloyal after its regional government disobeyed a court injunction and held a referendum on secession last year.

His opposition earned him bitter rebukes from secessionists.