Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen, Leader of the French National Front, attend a rally organized by League leader Matteo Salvini, with leaders of other European nationalist parties, ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliamentary elections, in Milan, Italy, Saturday, May 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

ROME (AP) — Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini on Monday defended his invocation of God at a political rally, after Italy's Catholic establishment criticized it as a cynical exploitation of faith ahead of European Parliament elections this weekend.

Salvini brandished a rosary and entrusted Italy to the Virgin Mary at a rally on Saturday, which featured a host of far-right European leaders. He spoke glowingly of St. John Paul II and retired Pope Benedict XVI for having tried to remind Europe of its Christian roots.

Asked to comment, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said God was for everyone and "invoking him for yourself is always very dangerous."

An Italian Jesuit close to Pope Francis, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, denounced the use of the rosary and the invocation of God for political campaigning. Spadaro, who has criticized the influence of right-wing evangelicals in U.S. politics, tweeted a photo of a commemorative coin of U.S. President Donald Trump being promoted by U.S. evangelicals as a "point of contact" with God.

"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 has increasingly sought to portray his anti-migrant policies as driven by a desire to save lives, by discouraging migrant crossings from Libya — and entirely consistent with the Christian message. At least one Italian bishop has warned voters that anyone who votes for Salvini's League isn't Christian.

In a tweet Monday, Salvini refused to comment directly. "I'll continue to give witness to my Faith with my work for a more beautiful and secure Italy. Gossip I'll leave to others. Amen."

The Italian Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana said Salvini's performance "was the latest example of the exploitation of religion to justify the systematic violation of human rights in our country."

It was a reference to recent criticism by U.N. human rights investigators that Salvini's migrant policies violate international human rights conventions.

More: Europe
Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

The latest from america

A heart drawn in the sand next to the water on a beach.
Our eschatology became focused upon place rather than person, but that is a fundamental distortion of the Gospel preached by the disciples.
Terrance KleinJune 29, 2022
Photo: Planet Fitness (@PlanetFitness)
The fact is, no one—no church or priest, friendly gym or unfriendly one—can judge us without our cooperation.
Joe Hoover, S.J.June 29, 2022
Close-up of a bride and groom holding hands on their wedding day.
Preparation for marriage should rely less on workbooks and more on prayer and community.
Simcha FisherJune 29, 2022
FILE - Archbishop Gregory Aymond conducts the procession to lead a live streamed Easter Mass in St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Sunday, April 12, 2020. The FBI has opened a widening investigation into Roman Catholic sex abuse in New Orleans, looking specifically at whether priests took children across state lines to molest them. The FBI declined to comment, as did the Louisiana State Police, which is assisting in the inquiry. The Archdiocese of New Orleans declined to discuss the federal investigation.
The F.B.I. has opened a widening investigation into sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in New Orleans going back decades.