An Italian priest fighting anti-Semitism has suffered a robbery in his parish, a theft he has described as “cowardice” and “sad”.

Driving the news

“They can mess with me, but not with my community. I just want to know if it was a robbery or if it is revenge for my positions after the anti-Semitic episodes”, declared Father Ruggero Marini, parish priest of the church of San Giacomo di La Loggia, in Turin, after the burglary February 3.

“If it it was because of the sign, it would be an act of cowardice”, Marini continued, referring to the poster he hung up on the front door of the parish church to combat anti-Jewish hate: “A Jews lives here: Jesus”.

“I don’t know if this theft is related to that. I hope not, because it would be difficult to accept”, the religious lamented.

“If it were revenge, and therefore a gesture to send me a message, it is sad, but it is even more so for those who decided to do this by hitting us as a parish and as a community, taking away the little we had to help others”.

The religious lamented the fact that the thieves took the 500 euros the community had collected for Church charity Caritas, as well as all the coins in the church vending machines.

Italian priest has genius idea to combat anti-Semitism... from church's front door
Italian priest has genius idea to combat anti-Semitism… from church’s front door (Avvenire)

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Marini had gained fame, admiration and respect after he told Italian Bishops’ paper Avvenire January 29 that he “wanted to shake up consciences” with “A Jew lives here” sign on the church, which he drew up to combat the wave of anti-Semitism sweeping over Italy.

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”.

Marini’s Turin diocese – specifically, the regional capital itself and the city of Mondovì, some 80 kilometres away – have suffered anti-Semitic attacks in recent weeks.

In response to those anti-Jewish incidents, Turin archbishop Cesare Nosiglia issued a declaration 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”.

Why it matters

Another priest who hung up a sign similar to Marini’s was Father Felice Scalia, at the opposite end of Italy, in Messina, on the front door of the church of Santa Maria della Scala.

“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.

For the record

In recent weeks and months, several Italian bishops and even Pope Francis himself have spoken out against anti-Semitism, especially in connection with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp January 27.

On January 16, the day the Italian Church devotes to Catholic-Jewish dialogue, Ambrogio Spreafico, the President of the Italian Episcopal Commission for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue, deplored that “anti-Semitism is the most tragic manifestation of a form of exclusion that in our society is expressed in the hatred of strangers, intolerance of immigrants, racism, rejection of the weakest, the poorest, the elderly”.

“Jesus was Jewish in every respect, as were Mary, Joseph and the apostles”, Spreafico, the Bishop of Frosinone-Veroli-Ferentino, also recalled.

Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Pope Francis decried the “barbaric resurgence of anti-Semitism” in our day, and recalled that in the face of the “appalling tragedy” of the Shoah, “indifference is inadmissible and remembrance a duty”.

Also on Holocaust Rembrance Day, the European Bishops warned that “cruel wars, genocide, persecution, and different forms of fanaticism are still taking place, although history teaches us that violence never leads to peace but, on the contrary, breeds more violence and death”.

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