Dear American friends:
I have almost run out of patience. In Italy, 90% of the population is Catholic. Althought many of them could be called “pragmatic” — meaning they remember their religion only when they want to receive a sacrament — on the other hand, thousands of Christians here live faithfully every day and take part in Mass regularly on Sunday.
Initially the Bishops’ Conference was very collaborative with the government but our left-wing leaders have misled Catholics and Church leadership for two months, and a few days ago said that religious celebrations will not be allowed during “phase 2” of the easing of coronavirus restrictions, which begins on May 4.
It is an unfair discrimination and a violation of our freedom of religion, and Catholics rightly protest. From May 4th only funerals will be allowed in Churches, and attendees will be limited to 15 people — close family only. But on the same date, some industrial sectors will be allowed to resume their activities, wearing facemasks and following social distancing (two of the main compulsory health conditions). So, big families with more than 15 relatives cannot take part in a funeral even if it were t o take place in Milan Cathedral, where even with “social distancing” 300 people could gather — but hundreds of workers will be allowed to be together in a factory! Is a factory more important or safer than a Church? Why are workers presumed to be more prudent than faithful gathered for worship?
That is not all; the Italian Premier’s statements in these last days are proof of a gradual shift to an ethical state that is the enemy of religious freedom. In the coming weeks, take-away services, restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen; even sports and exercises can be held as long as people maintain a safe distance from others at all times (1-2 meters). But what leniency will be granted for the Church? None. We can run in the fields alone or even with some friends, if we keep distances, but we cannot go to the Church and meet Jesus. The disparity shows that these are not healthcare decisions: they are discriminatory choices more and more clear in their intent, to limit religious freedom.
The Italian Church has decided to protest for this right, a human and constitutional right that is being denied by the left-wing government; but it may be too late. We can live with the virus — every minute they remind us of the health risks — but they do not respect our fundamental rights. This situation is shameful. Italy has never gone so downhill before, and I have never been so ashamed of my country. The object is to eliminate the sacraments, including the most important (for Catholics), Holy Communion, who believe literally the words of the Gospel: “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” For Catholics, the Eucharist is crucial, not a mere convenience. We will fight this new problem, what Pope Francis has called a new Gnosticism, together with all the faithful people of all religions. We will wait patiently for resumption of our our freedom of movement and assembly; we can accept the temporary suspension of trials and the rule of law (many defendants have been left in a limbo for months owing to delayed indictment hearings); but we cannot accept these limites to our faith and conscience! This virus cannot leveraged to dispace Christianity in Italy, least of all by a Premier who was never elected and chosen by any citizen!