Catholic Left reacts with outrage to Salvini's Marian gesture
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Following in Matteo Salvini's footsteps, who upset the European political establishment by entrusting Italy to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in a rally in Milan last weekend, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro joined Bp. Fernando Arêas Rifan in an Act of Consecration of Brazil to Jesus Christ through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The ceremony took place Tuesday in the presidential palace and was conceived by Catholic congressman Eros Biondini (who mentioned Salvini in his opening speech), the Roman Catholic Parliamentary Front and other Marian movements. While the event was completely ignored by the official press, it has been widelypublicized on social media, Bolsonaro's preferred tool of communication.
Recently published research conducted by digital communications intelligence firm AP/Exata revealed that Bolsonaro supporters' most predominant interest is religion. The study analyzed more than 2 million tweets during the election period, and among the most mentioned words by Bolsonaro's electorate are "God," "Jesus" and "Christ." President of AP/Exata Sérgio Danicoli said Bolsonaro's government is "fervently Christian," with religion lending "great weight" to its political development.
Among the most mentioned words by Bolsonaro's electorate are 'God,' 'Jesus' and 'Christ.'
The act was bound to be a renewal of Brazil's first consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1946 by Cdl. Jaime de Barros Câmara, a devotion that prompted several Brazilian bishops to consecrate their own dioceses. Tuesday's brief solemnity, albeit pious, didn't go as planned, leading the Brazilian faithful to question if a true Act of Consecration indeed took place. Bishop Rifan read the Act after the end of the official ceremony, when the president had already left. Therefore the Act of Consecration was not signed by Bolsonaro but by his secretary general, Minister Floriano Peixoto.
Bishop Rifan wrote, "Many expected that the president consecrated Brazil to Our Lady. But he didn't. It's a shame, but we did our part. The signed text with the Act was delivered personally to him, and then we performed the Consecration. We hope Our Lady accepts our gesture and protects Brazil."
Catholic congresswoman Chris Tonietto declared that she witnessed an act in honor of the Virgin Mary, but it lacked the formality to be considered a proper renewal of the country's consecration. While some argue the consecration was valid as an act of piety, most agree that Tuesday's extraordinary event should nonetheless be reason for great joy, as President Bolsonaro paid homage to Our Lady publicly, sending the unmistakable signal to the world that the people yearn for Jesus Christ.
Journalist Paulo Briguet even said that "so far, this has been the most important act in Bolsonaro's government. Congratulations for your courage, President. Brazil is the land of the Holy Cross, land of Jesus Christ, land of Our Lady."
Bolsonaro's decision to honor Our Lady very much echoes Salvini's deference to Christianity. His entrusting of Italy to the Immaculate Heart of Mary has been widely accepted among conservative Catholics as a positive, long-overdue turning of the tide. During the rally with 10 other European conservative parties, united on the stage to vow the "reshaping of Europe" through next week's EU Parliamentary elections, Salvini also entrusted the continent to its six patron saints: St. Benedict of Norcia, St. Brigid of Sweden, St. Catherine of Siena, Ss. Cyril and Methodius and St. Teresa Benedetta of the Cross. He then kissed the Rosary, now his habitual companion, looked up to the statue of the Virgin Mary on the Duomo and said, "I entrust Italy, my life and your lives to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whom I'm sure will bring us to victory."
I entrust Italy, my life and your lives to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whom I'm sure will bring us to victory.
The liberal Italian Church reacted with fury to Salvini's Marian zeal. Liberal theologian Massimo Faggioli called Salvini's action "a blasphemy," urging Catholics to protest against his behavior. Father Antonio Spadaro, director of Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica and close adviser to Pope Francis, fired off several tweets criticizing the interior minister, claiming that "rosaries and crucifixes are now used as symbols of political value, but in the opposite manner with respect to the past: before we rendered unto God what should have remained in the hands of Caesar, now it's Caesar that snatches and wields what is of God."
Enzo Bianchi, founder of the interconfessional Bose Monastic Community and advisor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, dramatically claimed to be "profoundly disturbed" by Salvini's actions. Bianchi has long been an authoritative voice inside the Vatican, even though his gender-mixed "monastery" is simply a private lay association, since its ecumenical character also embraces the sharing of the Eucharist with Protestants. He's the only lifelong member in the administration board of the Foundation for Religion Sciences John XXIII (FSCIRE), the intellectual headquarters of the so-called "Bologna school," the movement responsible for the liberal interpretations of the Second Vatican Council.
Writes Sandro Magister in 2014: "Bianchi ... has for years been the undisputed supreme guide of the 'Bologna school.' ... It's the only person to whom very authoritarian [Alberto] Melloni [the institute's controversial Church historian] obeys with reverential awe."
Faggioli, who has for long been involved with the FSCIRE, even claimed that on the Salvini matter, the Italian Church had "delegated" the response to Bianchi and Fr. Spadaro. It's an exceptionally powerful mandate for a heterodox layman to be reacting to Italy's strongest political force, allegedly in the name of the Church.
Last week the Italian bishops gathered in a private audience with Pope Francis, right after the opening ceremony of the Spring General Assembly of the Italian Bishops' Conference. According to Vatican Insider, Salvini was the meeting's "stone guest": he was never nominated, but the discussion revolved around him as the bishops mused about "being closed to migrants, the populist and nationalist sentiments, the prelude of totalitarianism and the manipulation of the Christian religion." Such is the tension caused by Salvini that Cdl. Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops, felt the need to reaffirm their loyalty to the pontiff "during this moment of contrary winds."
The president of the Italian bishops felt the need to reaffirm their loyalty to the pontiff 'during this moment of contrary winds.'
Pope Francis, who refuses to meet with the interior minister, diagnosed "closed" Europe's main problem as "lack of dialogue" — while discussing European politics behind heavily closed doors within the Vatican. In the same "democratic" spirit, an unnamed bishop demanded to know who the bishops were who supported Salvini (Salvini declared earlier this week he receives a lot of encouragement from the clergy, bishops and cardinals included, noting that they always ask to remain anonymous): "I want to know who these bishops are, as a matter of transparency, and also to understand how it is possible to support certain politics."
Sounds like the Spring Assembly's agenda might include the constitution of a Soviet-style, counter-revolution surveillance committee.