The Spanish bishops' conference has called for prayers for King Juan Carlos and his successor, after the king announced he would abdicate the throne in favor of his son, Prince Felipe. The conference’s leadership committee recognized Juan Carlos’ career, praising “his generous dedication and his contribution to the recent history of Spain.” The king said in a televised message June 2 that he began to consider his decision Jan. 6, when he turned 76 years old. “A younger generation deserves to be at the forefront, with new energies and a new way of confronting today's reality,” Juan Carlos said. He said Felipe has “the maturity, preparation and commitment necessary” to be Spain’s next head of state. The king called the prince “the embodiment of stability.” An extraordinary meeting of top officials was scheduled for June 3 to set a course of succession to the Spanish crown. Juan Carlos has been on the throne for 39 years, having assumed power in 1975, on the death of Francisco Franco.   The bishops acknowledged Juan Carlos’ important contribution to Spain’s transition to democracy following the Nationalist era. The bishops also expressed their confidence in Felipe. “We are sure that there will be continuity in the person of Felipe de Borbon y Grecia, Prince of Asturias, who has already proven he is qualified and competent, as we have seen in his different appearances in public life.” As the country enters a time of change, the bishops called for prayers for Juan Carlos and his wife Sofia “during this new phase in their lives.” They asked that God would “aid the Spanish Crown in the constitutional service entrusted to it.” The spokesman for the Spanish bishops, Fr. Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, noted that citizens have “a duty to pray to God for those who govern us, because they are also servants of the common good.” It is expected that Felipe will succeed as the Spanish monarch by the end of June.