The Deputy Premier and Interior Minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini has said he would like to meet Pope Francis.
Salvini is one of Italy’s most conservative Catholics in political office. The secular press rails against him as a “nationalist” because he puts the common good of Italy over the European Union. But Salvini says that he follows the Church’s teaching that welcoming migrants is “a duty within the limits of the possible.” Though he echoes the words of Cardinal Sarah on immigration, the secular press paints him as someone who should never even be allowed to meet with the Holy Father with whom he enjoys Holy Communion.
Catholic politicians in the United States rarely make any outward profession of their faith, and when they do it is usually to claim that they still personally practice it even though they dissent from Church teaching. But in a Saturday rally in Milan, Salvini held the Rosary. In his speech, he quoted G.K. Chesterton, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Robert Cardinal Sarah. He did not dismiss the import of Europe, but invoked the prayers of her patrons, St Benedict of Norcia, St Brigid of Sweden, St Catherine of Sienna. At the end of his campaign rally Salvini commended himself and all of Italy to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Milan crowd cheered with Beatlemania-like vigor.
Sadly, Fr Antonio Spadaro said on his personal Facebook page that “Christians should be angered by rosaries in politics.” I must confess to being baffled by such a comment by a prominent Catholic priest whose politics are doubtless different than Salvini.
While I do not know the substance of Mr Salvini’s policies, it seems that he is holding himself to the transcendent standard that American Catholic politicians do not. The Church does not have political models to commend, or defend. The Church teaches precepts which are elevating standards for any order. Salvini appears to be cognizant of these principles, and that should be praised by the Church, regardless of policy disagreements. There is nothing wrong with rosaries in politics. We need whole nations consecrated to Our Lady.
C C Pecknold is Associate Professor of Theology, and a Fellow of the Institute for Human Ecology, at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC
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