In Milan, at the Cattolica, talking about mountains and symbols. Marco Albino Ferrari, editorial director of Cai but also much else (writer, screenwriter) as well as an expert in history and mountains, certainly did not think that he would fuel (and rekindle) a controversy over crosses built and raised on mountain tops. There are hundreds of summit crosses in the Alps, some of which have been in place for centuries, the first traces dating back to 327 according to research by the Swiss Alpine Club.
Ferrari underlined at Cattolica: «As an atheist, I say that the crosses must remain on the mountains: it is right that they remain because they are a sign of the territory. Over the centuries, the crosses have been placed by mountain people who, also in this way, tried to exorcise the fear that the mountains have always generated among the population of the valleys, who believed them inhabited by monsters and demons. At the same time, I believe that new ones shouldn’t be put in.” And perhaps this last sentence has rekindled the fire under the ashes.
The discussion, social networks and the past did the rest, arriving at the reactions of various ministers. «The debate on the crosses at the top of the peaks, considered “anachronistic and divisive”, leaves me astonished» clearly filtered through the Minister for Public Administration and Senator of Forza Italia, Paolo Zangrillo, reacting to the words and the discussion after the presentation of the book «Croci di vetta in Appennino», written by Ines Millesimi and presented just a few days ago at the Cattolica.
«As a mountain enthusiast I know that for climbers they have always represented a point of reference, “a friend”, as Walter Bonatti defined the cross embraced on the Matterhorn in 1965 – adds the senator, coordinator of Forza Italia in Piedmont -. As a Christian I have no claim to impose this symbol, even if I think it should make non-Christians think too. Not only because it has always been there and is part of the history of the world, but because its lesson in humanity is universal and valid for everyone».
Clear words, clear positions. Underlined yesterday on several occasions by various members of the government and the majority. Why were they needed? Because that conference ended up in Lo Scarpone, the portal published by Cai, which reported: «The proposal to “leave the existing crosses intact, because they are significant evidence of a cultural cross-section, and at the same time to avoid the ‘installation of new symbols on the peaks”. This thesis is fully shared by the Italian Alpine Club». Here is the offending sentence. The sum between the words of Marco Albino Ferrari and the affirmation “fully shared by the Italian Alpine Club” has ignited the controversy, in which someone has added the fantasy, that there was a Cai plan for the removal of the crosses, that those on the Cervino or Gran Paradiso had already been removed or worse.
In order of appearance: «The Cai’s proposal not to add new ones and progressively remove the existing ones is a mere ideological provocation. A cross cannot in any way be considered divisive: if anything, the very will to remove it is divisive» said Paola Ambrogio, senator of the Brothers of Italy. «Cai expressed its opinion on the summit crosses, stating that it would be better to avoid installing new ones as they would be a divisive symbol and no longer current. But climbing a mountain still means immediately understanding that there is something superior and further than us» wrote the deputy of the Brothers of Italy, Andrea Tremaglia on Facebook.
«I am appalled by the Cai’s decision to remove the crosses from the mountain peaks without having communicated anything to the Ministry. I invite the president of Cai to review his decision »so said the Minister of Tourism, Daniela Santanchè. So: «I respect everyone’s ideas, I love the mountains and I think that Cai does a huge job to protect and enhance it. However, I think that the proposal to “ban” the Crucifix in the mountains because it is `divisive and anachronistic´ is nonsense, heartless and meaningless, which denies our history, our culture, our past and our future» the leader of the Lega, Matteo Salvini, still on Facebook. “The CAI’s proposal not to put crosses on national mountain peaks is truly senseless,” said the Honorable Paola Frassinetti, Undersecretary of Education and Merit. “A summit without its cross would no longer be the same”, in a note the senator of the Brothers of Italy Isabella Rauti.
The mountain is silence, as well as crosses. And after Sunday lunch, the general president of Cai, Antonio Montani, tried to feed the silence by delivering a note to the news agencies: «We have never dealt with the topic of summit crosses anywhere, much less taking an official position on it. What has been published is the result of personal statements expressed by the editorial director, Marco Albino Ferrari during the presentation of a book. Personally, as I believe all those who have climbed the Matterhorn, I cannot imagine the top of our mountain without its famous cross. I want to personally apologize to the minister for the misunderstanding generated by the articles that appeared in the press and I want to reassure that for every topic of this magnitude, our vigilant ministry will always be consulted and involved”.
And here is the silence, then. Just like in the mountains going up to those crosses.
June 25, 2023
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