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Clash heats up between Italy’s populist government, the Church

ROME – Italy’s governing populist coalition and the Catholic Church have seen tensions rise this summer as the question of immigration remains a dividing factor on the peninsula.

The Italian Church has pulled out the big guns against the Minister of the Interior and head of the right-wing political party Northern League, Matteo Salvini. A major Catholic magazine recently compared the statesman to the devil, a papal advisor criticized his political use of religious symbols, and the Italian bishops’ conference pushed back against his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Things between the newly established government and the Church began to heat up in June, when Salvini closed all Italian ports to vessels carrying immigrants – a move that caused a strong backlash from bishops and laypeople.

It’s the Minister of the Interior’s job to negotiate the relationship between the Church and the State, and, given the heated exchange between Salvini and the hierarchy in Italy, it looks like things are not going to get better soon.

Be gone Salvini!

The widely-read Italian Catholic weekly, Famiglia Cristiana, made its opposition to Salvini clear in its latest edition by putting the minister’s face on the front page next to an extended hand and the banner headline: “Be gone Salvini!”

The reference is to the ancient exorcism rite of yelling “Be gone Satan!” or “Step back Satan!” to cast out evil spirits.

The magazine contains several excerpts from interviews with high ranking Italian prelates who have taken issue with Salvini’s strong stance on immigration. The minister has fought with the European Union to share the burden of immigrants reaching the southern coasts among all member states – according to critics, often putting political objectives before charity.

Even the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Piero Parolin, told reporters that Salvini’s decision to close ports “is not the solution.” From cardinals to Franciscans, it’s obvious that a large portion of the clergy disapproves of the minister’s approach.

Read more at Crux. 

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