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TARANTO, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - A town mayor instigated by a bestselling lesbian children's author ordered paramilitary police to arrest a faithful priest and his congregation while praying a pro-family Rosary against Italy's proposed "homotransphobia" bill.
Father Giuseppe Zito, parish priest of San Nicola Church in Lizzano, Taranto, organized the Rosary Tuesday night, advertising it as a "Rosary for the Family" to "defend it from the pitfalls that threaten it, including the bill against homotransphobia."
Zito, a respected moral theologian, publicized the prayer meeting on social media, inviting the community of around 10,000 souls to "offer the Lord our contribution to block the unfair and perverse Zan-Scalfarotto-Boldrini bill against homotransphobia."
However, during evening Mass and before the Rosary could begin, LGBT activists organized an unauthorized demonstration to disrupt the prayer meeting.
Father Zito says he was forced to ask for police intervention after LGBT activists began creating trouble while Mass was in progress.
Waving "rainbow" flags and abusing parishioners, the mob began removing parish banners and notices on the columns and on the parish notice board.
The activists also carpeted the colonnade of the parish with leaflets saying: "Does God teach you not to love the different?" and "Does God teach you to discriminate?"
The protest gained profile when children's story writer Francesca Cavallo, a partnered lesbian, arrived at the demonstration and saw the Carabinieri asking protestors for their documents.
Cavallo, co-author of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls — banned in Russia for violating the country's laws prohibiting the propagation of the LGBT agenda — boasts she acted as "informer," phoning and summoning Mayor Antonietta D'Oria to the scene.
In 2019, Turkey ruled that the book, which has been translated into 47 languages, should be partially banned and treated like pornography since it could have a "detrimental influence" on young people.
Cavallo claimed some of the protestors "are people who also sing in the church choir" and who "simply wanted to have a confrontation with those who were inside to pray, a civil confrontation."
Instead of supporting the priest and silencing the mob, D'Oria, a pediatrician and mother of four, immediately ordered the police to "arrest whoever is in church because this is a shame for Lizzano, which is a democracy." The Carabinieri refused to obey her orders and left the scene.
"Of course it's not up to us to say what you should or shouldn't pray for," D'Oria wrote on her official Facebook page, maintaining that her vision for the municipal administration was "extremely secular."
"The church is a mother and no mother would ever pray against her children, whatever their legitimate sexual orientation," she added, posting her polemic under the image of a large LGBT flag.
"Why not pray against feminicides, domestic violence, child brides? Why not celebrate a Mass for the souls of the desperate people who lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean? Why not pray for the many innocent victims of abuse?"
D'Oria defended "those who haven't sinned but to have the courage to love," arguing that "those who love never commit sin, because love, whatever color it is, always raises the human soul and is a threat only to those who don't understand it."
"I defended the protesters as a mother. Loving is never a sin," the 58-year-old mayor told La Repubblica. "I remembered the clear separation between Church and State."
"It seems to me that our great pope doesn't say those things that justified the Rosary. Surely there was a wrong interpretation, I don't know if by the parish priest or someone else," she stressed.
Meanwhile, Abp. Filippo Santoro of Taranto has expressed "deep regret for the events that recently occurred in the Parish of San Nicola in Lizzano and that have had a great media coverage."
In a statement published Thursday, Santoro expresses no support for Fr. Zito or the faithful who had gathered to pray the Rosary. The bishop also refrained from stating Catholic teaching on homosexuality.
Instead, "in the wake of Pope Francis' clear teaching," he said, "my desire is to help and accompany everyone to support the faith of our people by building an atmosphere of solidarity, mutual respect and collaboration for the common good."
"The pope rejects 'any type of racism or exclusion as well as any violent reaction destined to prove itself self-destructive,'" Santoro wrote, quoting Francis.
"I want a Church to grow that is capable of building 'bridges' to build relationships, to build opportunities rather than erect walls of separation," Santoro insisted.
While emphasizing "everyone's diversity is a gift for the richness of the community," the bishop also reiterated a statement by the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) that a "new law is not necessary because 'there are already adequate safeguards with which to prevent and repress any violent or persecutory behavior,'" he added, noting that he would mediate between the parish priest and the mayor.
Cavallo railed against the prayer meeting on social media. "Last night two of the (very few) participants in the Rosary kept telling us 'why are you so scared of a Rosary?'"
"Nobody here was scared of the Rosary. But that question implies the belief that we should be scared of it. And on the other hand, the prayer sheet described ours as a world of darkness. Being described as devil's vessels is an act of enormous violence that no one should be subjected to in 2020," she wrote.
"Prayer is the concrete way in which believers enter into relationship with God. It has always characterized the life of the Church: 'They were persevering in the teaching of the Apostles and in communion, in breaking bread and prayers' (Acts 2:42). This is why nobody can be prevented from praying!" Fr. Zito announced in a statement.
Commentators have pointed out that the attack against Fr. Zito and the faithful congregation in Lizzano is a "terrifying foreshadowing" of what will happen to Catholics if a homotransphobia bill is passed by Italy's parliament.