Audio: “Seeing Salvini holding rosary beads, hurt me” – Bishop Grech

Photo: Ian Noel Pace

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Gozo’s Bishop Mario Grech said that it hurt him to see Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini holding rosary beads during a political activity for Far Right European leaders last May.

Mgr. Grech was being interviewed on Saturday morning by Fr. Joe Borg’s during Newsbook Hour on the radio station 103. 

Manipulation of religion

Fr Borg referred to Pope Francis’s interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa. During the interview the Pope, discussed the dangers of the sovereignist ideologies that consider the nation above everything else and the populist ideology. The Pope said that these ideologies can lead to war. The interviewer then mentioned Salvini’s political activity last May where the Far Right politician, rosary beads in hand, invoked all the patron saints of Europe and the Immaculate Conception to help ensure that Europe will not be overrun by Muslims.

Bishop Grech said that the Maltese who use their Christian belief to justify these ideologies and behaviours are  manipulating their religion as the Gospel condemns such ideologies.

Read: ‘The greedy steal and corrupt’ – Bishop Grech

The Bishop fears that Catholics who hold this narrow vision actually wish for a Church-sect. He explained that these elements, both locally and abroad, aim to stop the renewal process initiated by the Church 60 years ago.

Catholic leaders condemned Salvini

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, said God was for everyone and “invoking him for yourself is always very dangerous.”

An Italian Jesuit close to Pope Francis, Father Antonio Spadaro, one of the Pope’s main advisers, condemned both the brandishing of the rosary beads as well as the invocation of God and the patron saints of Europe for political campaigning. 

“There are those who in electoral campaigns use God and saints, and those who even sell coins to pray for the re-election of their candidate,” he said.

“The exploitation of religion seems to know no decency.”

Salvini did not react directly to the criticism by Church leaders but in a tweet had said that he will “continue to give witness to my Faith with my work for a more beautiful and secure Italy. Gossip I’ll leave to others. Amen.”

Salvini’s constant ‘no’

The Leader of the Lega Nord political party, Matteo Salvini, is well known for his opinions against immigration and is considered to be one of the main populist leaders in Europe.

Salvini ordered that the NGO vessel Open Arms will not allowed to disembark or approach Lampedusa. On the contrary, the Minister for Defence, who forms part of the coalition Party the 5 Star Movement, has refused to sign the order. She stated that politics should not lose its humanity. 

The vessels Open Arms and Ocean Viking together have 500 persons aboard. They were rescued and have now been for days on these ships as they have not been allowed to disembark yet. Twenty three NGOs and Dr Adrian Delia, leader of the Partit Nazzjonalista appealed to the Maltese Government give them refuge in Malta’s ports. The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, encouraged the Italian Authorities to allow the vessels to disembark in Lampedusa.

Read: Updated: Italian govt should realize ‘gravity of emergency’; let them disembark – Sassoli

Delia appeals to Muscat to make human life a priority