The separation between religion and state is a core principle of the Italian Republic, and Italian political leaders should always keep it in mind, the Vicepresident of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Giulio Disegni wrote in a Pagine Ebraiche column commenting the current Italian political crisis.
Disegni criticized the inappropriate use of religious symbols and objects by the Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini.
“The use and reference to religious symbols in public events, increasingly brazen in recent months, started in Milan on February 25t, when the Minister of Interior swore on the Gospel in the Duomo Square. On May 18, he swore on a rosary. This is just to mention the most striking episodes,” Disegni wrote. “Not to mention what happened at the beginning of the government crisis, on August 8, when, during his tour in Calabria, he again publicly flaunted the rosary,” he continued.
Disegni explained that Salvini should have known the importance of separation between Church and State, considering the position is serving in. His ministry includes the Central Direction for Religious Affairs, which oversees the “observance of the principles contained in articles 3, 8 and 19 of the Constitution and of the current regulations, ordinary and special, in the matters of religious freedom and the relations between the State and the different faiths, to make effective the right to religious freedom.”
UCEI vice-president noted that it took a political crisis for Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to criticize Salvini over his behavior, “Even though this does not cancel months of silence.”
Disegni highlighted that Italy has been for decades an increasingly multi-cultural and multi-religious society, even though “the minister does not even seem to have noticed.”
“Now, for an unbeliever or for a non-Catholic Salvini’s statements may seem generic attempts to win over the Catholic electorate, but this is not the case: it seems more credible that the minister is turning to that part of Catholics interested in promoting a conservative Catholicism with a general hostility towards civil rights,” he said.
Disegni concluded expressing his hope that the members of the next government will be more sensitive to the issue.