The President of the Italian Bishops, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, has pleaded with the country’s politicians to avoid “drawn-out trench warfare”.

The cardinal’s call came after far-right Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini withdrew the support of his League Party for Italy’s coalition government, thereby plunging the country into chaos.


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Driving the news

In an op-ed Thursday in the Catholic paper Avvenire, Bassetti said this latest crisis in Italy is first and foremost “a crisis of the system and of visions”.

The collapse of the government, the cardinal added, “highlights the malfeasance of some, but also the weakness of many others, who handle political responsibility as if it were a game”.

“Parliament is a serious thing, vital. It’s the Church of democracy”, Bassetti insisted.


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Go deeper

In his article, Bassetti expressed his hope that “free and conscientious” members of parliament not tied to party loyalties would “take the floor to call everyone to responsibility”.

“Before numbers, politics is made up of people”, the cardinal pointed out.

“Once again, it is up to Parliament to find a solution to help us remain a great country, democratic and European”, Bassetti insisted.

“Governing is a necessity; to govern well, a duty”, the cardinal wrote, pleading with politicians to avoid “drawn-out trench warfare” and instead focus on finding “ways to live together with deceit or unhelpful ruses”.

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What’s next

The Italian Senate voted Tuesday to postpone Salvini’s push for an immediate no-confidence vote in the government he was a part of until last week.

The chamber decided instead that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte would address the crisis in a session on August 20.

Salvini’s League decided to withdraw from its coalition with the Five-Star movement after this last party tried to block a new high-speed alpine rail link between Turin and Lyon.

The Five-Star movement says the link is too costly and damaging to the environment, but the League supports it.

Observers say Salvini is just angling for new elections to make the most of high poll numbers.

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Why it matters

The coalition partners have also clashed over other issues such as taxation, relations with the European Union and immigration.

The tensions between the two parties were on full display Thursday after a Roman court allowed the Spanish refugee rescue ship Open Arms to enter Italian waters.

Salvini had insisted on blocking the vessel for nearly two weeks.

In an open letter communicating an end to the standoff, Prime Minister Conte accused Salvini of disloyalty and said Salvini was “obsessed” with blocking Italy’s ports.

Salvini issued an emergency order blocking the Open Arms from the port on the island of Lampedusa.

But the Five-Star Defence Minister, Elisabetta Trenta, refused to countersign it.

Trenta reminded Salvini that defying the court was illegal as she insisted that “politics cannot lose its humanity”.

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