“The Catholic Italian politician with whom Pope Francis reportedly refuses to meet because of his immigration stance held and kissed a rosary during a political rally over the weekend and invoked the Blessed Mother, drawing criticism from some quarters and support from others.
Deputy premier and interior minister Matteo Salvini also commended his country, its citizens, and himself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, something unheard of from a Catholic political leader.
During a Saturday political rally attended by tens of thousands in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Salvini appealed to the six patron saints of Europe, The Tablet reports, Ss. Benedict of Norcia, Brigid of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Cyril and Methodius, and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein).
Salvini then kissed his rosary, looked up to statue of the Blessed Mother atop the 14th-century Milan Cathedral and said, ‘I entrust Italy, my life, and your lives to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, who I’m sure will bring us to victory.’
Salvini, head of Italy’s Lega (League) Party, led the rally with 10 other populist European leaders ahead of this week’s European Parliament elections, in a growing resistance to centralized European Union (EU) control, and in particular, support for tightening immigration laws.
Salvini is a conservative Catholic politician known for prioritizing his country over the European Union, garnering himself the ‘nationalist’ label by the media and the left…
Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor of La Civiltà Cattolica and close confidant of Pope Francis, was among the Catholic figures disapproving of Salvini’s use of the rosary at the rally.
Spadaro issued several critical tweets, spreading the criticism on Facebook as well, saying Christians should be outraged.
Last year, Spadaro opposed a proposed Italian law mandating that crucifixes be placed in all public buildings, accusing Salvini’s League party on Twitter of seeking to use the crucifix as an action figure, which is ‘blasphemous.’
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin issued an apparent rebuke of Salvini as well on Sunday.
‘I believe partisan politics divides, but God belongs to everyone,’ Parolin told reporters at the Cathedral of St. John Lateran. ‘Invoking God for oneself is always very dangerous.’
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the European Bishops’ Conference, also denounced Salvini to Italian newspaper La Stampa, according to The Tablet, saying particular groups cannot appropriate Christian values and that ‘acceptance and integration are essential values of the Gospel’ and have ‘no color.’
Bishop Domenico Mogavero, of Mazara del Vallo, a port in western Sicily, head of the judicial affairs panel of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), said Salvini can no longer call himself a Christian, according to ANSA new service.
‘We can no longer stay silent over the bragging of an ever more arrogant minister,’ Mogavero said.
‘We can no longer allow (people) to appropriate the sacred signs of our faith to peddle their inhuman, anti-historic views, diametrically opposed to the Gospel message,’ he said. ‘Those who are with him cannot call themselves Christian because they have reneged on the commandment of love.’
Italian Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana termed Salvini’s kissing of the rosary and response to the pope an instance of ‘fetishist sovereignty.’
Enzo Bianchi, lay founder of the ecumenical Monastic Bose Community and an influential figure in the Italian Church, said he was ‘profoundly disturbed’ by Salvini’s actions.
‘How is it possible that a politician today, at an electoral rally, can kiss the rosary, invoke the patron saints of Europe and entrust Italy to the immaculate heart of Mary for the victory of his party?’ Bianchi tweeted. ‘Catholics, if you love Christianity, do not be silent. Protest!'”