The leader of the League (far right) Matteo Salvini drew on Wednesday an avalanche of critics, including a friend of the pope, kissing his rosary and invoking the Virgin Mary on the very benches of the Senate, just before the end from the government of Giuseppe Conte.
"We have witnessed an instrumentalization of rosaries, crucifixes, images dear to the devotion of believers, who are detached from their context to be enslaved to propaganda," Father Antonio Spadaro claimed on Wednesday.
Director of the Jesuit magazine Civilità Cattolica, he is part of the close guard of Pope Francis and it is always he who responds to the knife blows of Matteo Salvini, Minister of the Interior outgoing.
"Who has responsibility should avoid attaching religious symbols to political slogans," also in his farewell speech Mr. Conte, a Catholic who had just announced the end of an unprecedented populist government composed by League and Five-Star Movement (M5S, anti-system).
"These are episodes of religious unconsciousness that run the risk of offending Christian sentiment and obscuring the principle of secularism that is the basis of the modern state," Conte said.
Words approved Wednesday by Father Spadaro. "Today we see that the sovereignist forces need to rely also on religion to win," he told the newspaper La Stampa.
In the Senate, Matteo Salvini had indulged in one of his cute sins, invoking "the protection of the immaculate heart of Mary for Italy". He also ostensibly kissed a rosary, despite a reminder to the president of a hemicycle where religious symbols are prohibited.
Nicola Morra, Senator M5S and Chairman of the Antimafia Parliamentary Committee, accused him of ignorance, reminding him that in Calabria, brandishing a rosary and turning to the Madonna was a hallmark of the 'Ndrangheta (Calabrian Mafia) when it threatens statesmen.
- Migrants: the pope and Salvini on the antipodes -
Mr. Salvini regularly brandishes a rosary during political rallies and likes to present himself as "the father of 60 million Italians". He claims to refuse the landing of migrants in Italian ports in the name of defense of the security and Christian roots of the country, and also want to reduce the number of deaths in the Mediterranean.
An obvious way to challenge Pope Francis, who constantly denounces the indifference of old Europe to migrants.
During a campaign meeting for the spring 2018 Legislative Assembly in Milan, the pope, quoted in a speech by Salvini, had been whistled. Once elected, Mr. Salvini was sworn in on the Gospel at the same time as the Italian Constitution.
"To measure oneself against an international figure like that of François is for Matteo Salvini a way to increase his prestige by rising to his level, and why not surpass him by being more Catholic than him", analyzes Marie-Lucie Kubacki, in an investigation on this subject for the French weekly La Vie.
He hopes to rally the many Catholics who consider too "naive" the leitmotif of the pope on the reception of migrants.
Francis answers him in words, without ever naming him. On 9 August, the day after the dynamiting of the ruling coalition by Matteo Salvini, the pope lashed out at "sovereignty", evoking "speeches that resemble those of Hitler in 1934".
A month earlier, the Argentine pope had presided at Mass in St. Peter's Basilica marking the sixth anniversary of his visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a large-scale landing site at the beginning of his pontificate. "Migrants are above all human people," he pleaded.
Will the pope hold his revenge this week? Discussions are underway between the M5S and the Democratic Party (PD, center-left) to form a new government that would oust the League. And one of the conditions posed by the PD is a radical change of course on migration policy.
© 2019 AFP