Pope Francis has put an end to a 700-year-old “privilege” by which two town councils on an Italian island had the right to propose their own candidates for parish priest.

Driving the news

Since the 1300s, the town councils of Forio and Casamicciola have had the right to present to the Bishop of Ischia, an island in the Gulf of Naples, lists of three candidates for parish priests, from which the bishop is obliged to choose.

The agreement was put in place out of the Church’s gratitude for the support of the secular authorities.

But that all changed July 17, when Pope Francis decided to do away with this centuries-old right, as Teleischia reports.


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Why it matters

The present Bishop of Ischia, Pietro Lagnese, had moved earlier this year to do away with the town councils’ privilege.

But that prompted protests particularly from the Forio town council, which reasserted its right to propose its own priest.

The criticisms and insults of Lagnese grew so loud that the priests of Ischia were forced to come out in support of their bishop.

The priests explained that the agreement between Church and councils was no longer appropriate, and that “certain forms of relations between the Church and civil society have been overcome in the light of the indications of the Second Vatican Council”.

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Go deeper

In April Lagnese issued a decree putting an end to the privileges of the Forio and Casamicciola councils.

But a week later, the councils decided to pursue legal action.

The case reached the Congregation for the Clergy, in the Vatican, which backed Lagnese’s decree.

But given the gravity of the case, the Congregation decided to present it for the Pope’s personal consideration.

Francis also backed Lagnese, thus putting an end to the town councils’ appeals.

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