The Vatican Secretary of State has backed the ‘Sardines’, a grassroots movement targeting controversial far-right Italian politician Matteo Salvini.

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“I’m not a member of the Sardines (but) I think it is important to grasp everything that is good also in these movements and try to valorise it always for the good of the country”, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said December 11 in comments reported by ANSA.

“That is my wish, that the positive energies be highlighted above all… that these positive pushes should be placed at the service of the country’s welfare”, the Vatican ‘Prime Minister’ added.

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The ‘Sardine Movement’ was born in the northeast Emilia-Romagna region, which is currently preparing for elections in January.

The territory is part of Italy’s “Red Belt”, owing to its strong tradition of anti-clericalism when it belonged to the Papal States and to its fierce anti-fascist resistance before and after World War II.

Since those times, Emilia-Romagna has been a leftist stronghold, having been governed by a succession of Communist, Socialist and now Democratic Party presidents.

But that left-wing history in the region has made it a target of particularly hard campaigning from Salvini and his ultra-right Lega party, who are still smarting from losing national government in a misfired coup last summer.

In response to the Lega leader’s targeting of the region, locals in Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna, have been organising anti-Salvini rallies.

They’ve been squeezing ever-more people into the city’s main square – hence the movement’s name, which also comes from the fact demonstrators are permitted no other propaganda apart from small sardine-shaped signs.

Protests against the type of ultraconservative, populist, xenophobic and Eurosceptic politics represented by Salvini are also scheduled in coming days in cities like Turin, Milan, Naples and Rome.

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