“660,000 poor people dumped” is the title with which Avvenire – the newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) – opened the November 22 edition to tell the story of the approval of the 2023 economic maneuver by the council of ministers. That title also tells of a certain nervousness in relations between the right and the world Catholic, who in these first weeks since the elections of 25 September has emerged faced with some important issues. The fight against poverty, in this case. But also the reception of migrants.
At the beginning of the mandate, the Meloni government had been welcomed by the openings of credit by both the Vatican secretary of state Pietro Parolin and the president of the CEI Matteo Zuppi. But tensions already started at the end of October, when the executive found itself deciding on the fate of some ships that had rescued hundreds of people in search of asylum and humanitarian protection at sea. In those days, the authorities tried to ban those ships from entering territorial waters, despite the dramatic conditions of the people on board. Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi went so far as to define the part of the migrants who should have remained on board the ships, as they were not authorized to land on Italian soil, as “remainder of the cargo that might remain”. In those same hours Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops, instead affirmed: “There is a cry that rises from the Mediterranean that we must not forget, a cry that says: save me! Peace begins with saving life and hope”.
La Russa’s words on Mattarella’s phone call to Macron appeared as a disavowal
At the beginning of October, Pope Francis had been much tougher on the fate of migrants. Speaking off the cuff during the mass for the canonization of Giovanni Battista Scalabrini and Artemide Zatti, he had in fact stated: “The exclusion of migrants is disgusting, it is sinful, it is criminal”. Subsequently, however, the pontiff also lambasted the European Union, arguing that “he cannot leave the responsibility for all the migrants who arrive on the beaches to Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Spain”.
There were also differences of opinion between the right and the Catholic world on the war in Ukraine. And, more generally, it happened around many of the issues that are close to the heart of the right itself. An example of this are the concerns expressed by the bishops at the beginning of September on the differentiated autonomy of the regions with ordinary statute, which was being worked on in the last legislature.
A more serious discourse must be made instead as regards the relations between the right and the Quirinale. And this is the second front opened in the few weeks since the right has been in government. In fact, if the frictions with the Catholic world derive from a legitimate diversity of views of a political nature and stop there, in at least one case the presidency of the republic came close to an institutional accident.
We are referring to a statement released by the president of the senate Ignazio La Russa on the phone call between President Sergio Mattarella and French President Emmanuel Macron which took place to mend the rift with France over migrants. The crisis had started due to the Italian government’s attitude towards hospitality. And the phone call seemed to have produced the expected result.
It was at that point that La Russa stated: “The work of the president of the republic is always useful but I also believe that the firmness of our government can and should be shared”. In that context, his words appeared to many as a disavowal of the presidency of the republic, an unheard-of and disturbing fact also because La Russa represents the second highest office in the state. La Russa himself had recently already been the subject of criticism for the way he is playing his role, and for certain interventions of a political nature that one would not expect from a president of the senate.
The besieged fort syndrome
The feeling is that some exponents of the right still struggle to understand the responsibility to which the vote of the Italians has called them, and prefer to continue behaving as if they still represent only that small community of comrades who have lived on the margins of the institutions for years. “The calls of the forest, indeed of Colle Oppio, are continuous”, wrote il Foglio, alluding to a historic party section of the Roman extreme right. In that condition of marginality, having cultivated the idea of being politically surrounded could seem understandable. It is much less so now that the right holds power. Just as the use of a language with harsh tones, often recriminating or in any case victimizing, is incomprehensible, which over time also risks turning into a caricature of that same right.
Moreover, they are the same tones with which, during the press conference to present the economic maneuver on November 22, Giorgia Meloni as prime minister addressed the journalists who asked her for more time to ask questions. The polemical question and answer was followed up in the news the following day. The one with information is the third front opened in a few weeks by the right in government. The fourth, also considering the international level and the tensions with France. Are too many. The risk is to damage the country.
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