ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - Earlier this year, Church Militant reported on a wave of anti-Christian vandalism sweeping across Italy, "in a binge of violence unparalleled in recent memory." Months later, a post-lockdown upsurge in these episodes — widely underreported by the media — quickly spread across the country.
Despite the alarming increase in such offenses, the majority of cases were reported solely in the local press, as denounced by Catholic website Fatti Sentire: "Christianophobia isn't only about Christian persecution in the Middle East; it's more than enough to read our local headlines, usually written in small print in order to hide from the regime media."
The website also predicted how the numbers of anti-Christian attacks would soar this year: "In 2020 we'll witness a boost in belligerent laicism, as during lockdowns the police actually invaded the few churches which remained open and stopped the celebrations through intimidation of the clergy."
The imagery of such a tyrannical violation certainly contributed to foster the conditions for this outburst of anti-Christian sentiment.
The attacks ensued almost immediately after the official beginning in May of the gradual easing of Italy's lockdown. During the Marian month, a statue of Our Lady was decapitated in the town of Rosta, and the few local news outlets that took notice of it only reported the fact because the mayor himself denounced it on Facebook.
Then at the end of June, the church of Our Lady of Consolation in Gattinara, Piedmont, was ravaged by vandals who set the altar on fire and smashed the crucifix and Our Lady's statue. A local newspaper exceptionally deemed the assault "not a simple act of vandalism, but a true insult to Christians."
The investigators on the case were considering the possibility of a satanic crime, as consecrated Hosts had been stolen in a nearby town just a few months earlier. In that same month in the town of Cameri, not far from Gattinara, a small statue of Our Lady was stolen from the public library only to be shattered and be left on the street.
August was marked by episodes of "touristic" desecration. In Alessano, a small coast town in Puglia, a medieval chapel was defaced with graffiti stating obscenities and profanities. The culprits were an Italian man, 40, and a German woman, 48, on vacation in the area.
Many of the August attacks took place around the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. One of the most shocking assaults occurred in the touristic ski town of Lizzano in Belvedere, in Emilia-Romagna. Six young Italian boys between 16–19, staying in Lizzano for the summer, got drunk and smashed a historic crucifix, all while recording everything to later upload it on social media.
The video of the attack is filled with laughter and blasphemous banter, and one of the boys can be heard muttering the beginning of a Hail Mary, followed by shouts of "I attended a school of nuns and I can't even remember the Hail Mary!" For their final blow on the crucifix, the youth used a baseball bat, plunging Jesus' head. Only one of the boys, counseled by his parents, wrote a letter to the mayor apologizing and offering to pay for the damage.
Bologna-based Catholic website Fatti Sentire commented: "This isn't just a prank or a dare: It's a symptom. It's the result of decades of state schools that only teach relativism. It's the result of swapping true evangelization for the 'building bridges' speech. ... [C]hristianophobia is here, knocking on our doors."
Still in Emilia Romagna (not coincidentally, one of the most secularist regions in Italy), the parish of St. Rita in central Bologna spent the Feast of the Assumption mourning the destruction of their beautiful statues of Our Lady of Lourdes and of St. Bernadette. Parish priest Fr. Angelo Baldassarri pointed out that this wasn't the first time his church had been viciously attacked. Not too far from Bologna, in Carpineti, the events of a traditional August agricultural fest had to be rescheduled in order to fit an entire day for the restoration of their wood cross, vandalized a few days earlier; the cross has been in town for so long that its location is actually called "mount of the cross."
Moving on to Tuscany, on Aug. 16 a parish in Vecchiano discovered its statue of Our Lady had been covered with a plastic gardening basket. A sanctuary in Pescina, in Abruzzo, had all the sacred icons of the pathway leading to the church misplaced and damaged, in addition to a depiction of Our Lady smashed to pieces. In Alcara li Fusi, in Sicily — for the second time in a year — a statue of Our Lady holding baby Jesus was found with both Jesus and Mary decapitated. In Cremona, Lombardy, a large, sculpted crucifix (a gift from sculptor Mario Spadari) was violently taken down just a few weeks after its inauguration Aug. 15. The entire city remained distraught, as a piece of cardboard bearing the word "Satan" was left next to crucifix.
Another shocking profanation in Lombardy occurred in Maccagno, where a 16th-century Marian sanctuary was vandalized. The statue of Our Lady of the Rosary in the garden was covered with a cardboard box from a case of beer, the altar was profaned, liturgical vestments were spread all over the church floor, and broken bottles and human excrements were found in the surroundings. Unfortunately, this level of sacrilege wasn't exclusive to this episode, as a small open-air church in Sardegna also had its statue of Our Lady broken and its holy water stoup filled with urine.
And in the end of August criminals set fire to the gates of the church of the Sanctuary of St. Gaspare del Buffalo, a noted pilgrimage site in Albano Laziale, in the outskirts of Rome. Fr. Mario Proietti, rector of the sanctuary, is known online for his profound catechesis and for regularly saying the Traditional Latin Mass. The sanctuary hosts the relics of the founder of the Congregation of Missionaries of the Precious Blood, St. Gaspar del Buffalo.
To Catholic daily New Daily Compass, Fr. Proietti declared: "This isn't only 'vandalism.' It's very worrying because we've never had a problem like this. It can't be a simple dare because whoever did it, did it intentionally, beginning by all the scattered petrol. It was arson."
Asked if the attack could have been planned by members of a satanic sect, Fr. Proietti replied: "Everything is possible. We've had this happen in the past in this area, but I wouldn't know if fire at the gates could classify as part of some sort of satanic ritual. For sure this is an attack against the Church and the Faith, as we are, together with the Sanctuary of Saint Maria Goretti, the most loved place of worship in the entire region of Albano."
The havoc continued through September. In the Milanese sanctuary of St. Anthony, a mighty bronze St. Anthony statue was knocked down in the middle of the night, followed by the much-discussed case of the desecration of the church of St. Agatha, in Caltassinetta, in Sicily. Vandalized for the second time in just a few days, the church's consecrated Hosts were found on the ground, the altar was wrecked and statues were destroyed. The thieves were then found with "a monstrance with Hosts," among other sacred objects. Police are still investigating if the thieves have any ties with satanic sects.
And more recently a reliquary containing the blood of Pope St. John Paul II has been stolen from a chapel at Spoleto Cathedral.
Relics of St. John Paul II seem to be a very sought-after item: In 2014, a relic with a piece of blood-stained cloth from the cassock the saint was wearing on the day of his assassination attempt was stolen from the sanctuary of San Pietro della Ienca, in Abruzzo. Investigators were worried about it being a satanic theft, as the relic was stolen on the night of Jan. 26, a date which coincides with the invocation of the demon Volac.
According to journalist Giovanni Panunzio, an expert on the business of occultism in Italy, "the market of religious simulacra in satanic sects is booming, and sacred symbols are sold for tens of thousands of dollars." Another relic with the blood-stained cloth was also stolen from Cologne Cathedral in 2016. And in 2017, two thieves hid inside the Sanctuary of Montecastello in the town of Tignale to steal an ampulla with St. John Paul II's blood.