The Bishop of Gozo (Malta), Mario Grech, has said that it “hurts” to see controversial ultranationalist Italian politician Matteo Salvini flaunt rosary beads and pictures of saints while ranting at rallies about the “Islamic invasion” of Europe.
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Grech gave an interview to Newsbook in which he said the use of the Gospel message to justify populist and sovereignist ideologies amounts to a manipulation both of the Gospel and of people’s minds.
“People who use Christian beliefs to bolster populism are manipulators”, Grech thundered.
“This is clear exploitation, when the homily preaches the polar opposite”, the bishop added.
Grech explained that Catholics with such narrow beliefs as those promoted by Salvini want to go back to a sectarian Church in conflict with the modernising reforms set by the Second Vatican Council, in the sixties.
He added that manipulating Christian beliefs for the purposes of populism reverses the way of modernisation the Church has been on for the past fifty years.
Grech is not the only bishop to have taken Salvini to task over his constant campaigning with rosaries and holy cards in hand.
“Exploiting devotion and the purest popular feelings for base electoral interests is unspeakable behaviour”, denounced Domenico Mogavero, bishop of Mazara del Vallo, after Salvini’s latest “indecent” rosary stunt last weekend at a rally in Syracuse.
Last June Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture in the Vatican, called Salvini out for his “hypocrisy”, and reminded him that “brandishing the Gospel, showing the Rosary, kissing the crucifix does not necessarily make you a believer”.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin has also reminded the politician that invoking God for oneself “is always very dangerous”.
Antonio Spadaro, an Italian Jesuit close to Pope Francis, has also lamented with respect to Salvini’s stunts that “the exploitation of religion seems to know no decency”.
Anti-immigration hardliner Salvini was forced to back down Saturday and allow into Italy 27 migrant children on the refugee rescue ship Open Arms, still stranded with more than a hundred souls aboard off the coast of Lampedusa.
Yet another standoff between humanitarian organisations and Salvini looms as another boat, the Ocean Viking, continues to look for a Mediterranean port to dock with more than 350 migrants on board.
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