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Italian Catholics Stand With Their Shepherds
BY EDWARD PENTINREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
— When Pope Benedict XVI arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport May 14 after his
12-hour flight from Brazil, the first person to greet him was a surprise:
Italy’s minister for the family, Rosy Bindi.
irony was not lost on the press. In the face of sustained opposition from
Italy’s bishops, Bindi is trying to push legislation through the Italian
parliament that would grant the same legal and financial rights to unmarried
and same-sex couples as enjoyed by married couples.
despite the anger directed at the Church from critics over the bishops’
opposition to the policy, the exchange was friendly and courteous. Such a
civilized meeting, however, is atypical. In recent months, Church leaders have
been harshly attacked for opposing the legislation, called “DICO” in Italian.
dispute turned particularly nasty in April when Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco of
Genoa, the recently-appointed head of the Italian bishops’ conference, received
a death threat through the mail in the form of a bullet and the written
star-shaped symbol of a communist Italian terrorist group. Abusive graffiti
against the archbishop and the Pope was also scrawled on the walls of Genoa’s
cathedral and, more recently, in other Italian cities.
reaction was sparked after Archbishop Bagnasco, now given round-the-clock
police protection, noted that if laws are reduced to a mere question of public
opinion without reference to their morality, there is little to stop laws being
passed allowing incest or pedophilia (both of which are currently being
proposed by groups in Germany and the Netherlands).
tension was further fueled at a May 1 rock concert on the grounds of Rome’s St.
John Lateran basilica. At the event, presenter Andrea Rivera ridiculed the
Church, saying: “The Pope says he doesn’t believe in evolution. I agree, in
fact the Church has never evolved.”
Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore
Romano published a heated
rebuttal, calling the remarks “terrorism” intended to stoke “blind and
irrational rage against someone who always speaks in the name of love, love for
life and love for man.”
Vatican officials thought L’Osservatore
doesn’t do the Church good to match their rhetoric,” one Vatican official said.
“It would have been better if the Church had let that one go.”
Cardinal Jozef Tomko, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the
Evangelization of the Peoples, supported the newspaper’s response. It is “a
kind of terrorism of words,” he said. “You cannot speak in that way to a man
who is not only head of the Catholic Church, but also the most respected
authority in the world.”
Slovakian cardinal, who was prefect from 1985 until 2001, said that remaining
silent is not an option.
laypeople, laypeople in politics, have not only the right but also the duty to
profess their faith,” Cardinal Tomko said, or their religious beliefs will be
reduced to being a private matter, disallowed from the public square.
Family Day Faithful
May 12, faithful Italian Catholics followed Cardinal Tomko’s suggestion. That
day, a vast crowd from varying political and social backgrounds traveled from
all over Italy to take part in a Family Day in Rome.
numbers far exceeded expectations, with some estimates putting the crowd at 1.5
contrast, a nearby rival rally staged by homosexual activist groups and
sponsored by the Radical and Socialist parties, drew a small but noisy crowd,
estimated at only a few hundred people.
the Family Day event was organized by lay Catholic groups rather than the
bishops themselves, and the day’s rally was intended as an expression of
support for the family rather than a demonstration against the DICO bill, many
saw it as a clear statement against the civil-union legislation.
Bagnasco described the event, noted in press reports for its calm and generous
atmosphere, as a “respectful and joyous witness to family values.”
Avvenire, the Italian bishops’ conference’s newspaper,
noted how the “barbaric hordes” predicted by the communist newspaper Il Manifesto
actually consisted of “mommies washing the heads of their little ones, boys
singing or pulling pieces of bread from their bags, and fathers pushing prams.”
often we’ve been ignored and now I hope something will change,” said
participant Cristina Gadaleta.
participant, Matteo Coatti, said, “It’s been an amazing party of overwhelming
joy, everyone united in calling for more attention to the family.”
Edward Pentin writes