An Italian priest has had a genius idea to combat rising anti-Semitism: hanging a sign on his church’s front door that says: “A Jew lives here: Jesus”.

Driving the news

Ruggero Marini, parish priest of San Giacomo di La Loggia in Turin, told Italian Bishops’ paper Avvenire January 29 that he “wanted to shake up consciences” with his sign, which he was inspired to draw up by the wave of anti-Semitism presently sweeping over Italy.

“The people who pass by stop, read and some look for me to give me some kind of positive feedback. It was what I was most interested in: shaking up consciences”, the priest said.

Go deeper

For Marini, “to say that the church is the home of the Jew Jesus means to transform pain into a sacramental event. And, moreover, it is telling the truth, a truth that perhaps today, many, too many, forget”.

The priest is committed to overcoming that amnesia: so much so that although persons unknown have teared down his sign at night, every morning he keeps putting it back up.

Marini’s plan with the sign was also that the schools on either side of his church took up the sign as a talking point in the classroom: something that the priest said teachers have promised him will happen.

“This is what needs to be done, because remembering certain things only one day a year is not enough”, Marini explained.

Why it matters

Marini’s Turin diocese – specifically, the regional capital itself and the city of Mondovì, some 80 kilometres away – have been the site of anti-Semitic graffiti in recent days.

Such is the concern on the part of the Church in the region that the local bishop, Cesare Nosiglia, felt compelled to issue a statement recalling that “anti-Semitism, in all its forms, has produced immense tragedies that we must not only condemn, but also ensure that they never happen again”.

“The time has come to take a step back: to return to the mainland of shared coexistence, to leave the swamp of those who foster hatred and intolerance, of those who let the media multiply incessantly the foolish messages of individuals who know no other way to feel alive than physical or verbal violence”, Nosiglia implored.

For the record

A similar sign to priest Marini’s appeared some time ago on the front door of the church of Santa Maria della Scala in Messina, at the opposite end of Italy, hung up by Father Felice Scalia.

“We Catholics, or in any case Westerners, who persecuted the Jews, have forgotten that a Jew lives in the churches, that we owe a lot to the Jews: we owe the Law and Jesus himself, of Jewish ‘race’ and religion”, Scalia told Avvenire.

“What the Christian-fascists disregarded as an insult, for Christians should be a merit, a wealth. To protest this falsification of truth, one should write in every church “A Jew lives here.” Or: “Here, a Jew and friends of Jews, our Fathers in the faith”.

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.