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ROME - Two things happened in Italy over the weekend, one of which was big, loud and widely covered, the other small and essentially unnoticed. Taken together, they illustrate something about the Church’s silent political and cultural impact, as opposed to its noisy public advocacy.
We’re not talking here about bishops’ statements, press conferences or papal encyclicals. Instead, this is about the effect over time on a culture of the Church’s daily life, a bit like the Colorado River once cut through layers of rock over centuries to carve out the Grand Canyon.
Saturday - Deputy - Prime - Minister - Matteo
On Saturday, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini hosted a major rally in Milan ahead of European elections next week, joined by Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s Nationalist Party, and a slew of other far-right, anti-immigrant political forces from 11 countries, including Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) and the Dutch anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV).
Right now, polls show Salvini’s populist alliance poised to gain either the third or fourth largest number of seats in the European Parliament, though that number could go up if Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party decides to sign on. That’s entirely possible, since Orban has hailed Salvini as “the most important person in Europe today.”
Salvini - Leadership - Church - Saturday - Defender
Salvini, who’s frequently jousted with the leadership of the Church, presented himself Saturday as a defender of Europe’s Christian identity, citing St. John Paul II, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, and Cardinal Robert Sarah, as well as Alcide De Gasperi, a devout Catholic and one of the founders of the European Union who’s currently a candidate for sainthood. He also brandished a rosary, earning a rebuke from the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference on Monday: “Rosaries should be used for prayer, not rallies.”
For the record, when Salvini mentioned Pope Francis, the crowd booed.
Salvini - Stock - Trade - Italy
Salvini’s stock in trade is an “Italy...
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