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At the end of March, a few pieces emerged in the Italian press reporting the difficulties Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini has been facing in order to get a meeting with Pope Francis, allegedly because of his immigration policies. Salvini, whose party, League, has been in power in a coalition with the populist-left Five Star Movement since last June, is the most prominent figure in the current government, mostly because of his tough measures to tackle the current immigration crisis.
Official data show that the number of migrants disembarking on the shores of Sicily decreased by 91, 79% compared to the same period just a year ago. The number of deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, caused mostly by the poor conditions of the vessels roughly arranged by people smugglers, also diminished by 28%, and the estimate for 2019 is just as optimistic.
Matteo Salvini's first official visit to the Vatican took place last September, when the minister attended the celebratory Mass in honor of St. Michael the Archangel, patron of the Italian Police Force and of the Vatican Gendarmerie. The reports noted that Salvini's presence wasn't mentioned in the official program nor it was acknowledged by any official channels of the Holy See, as it is usually the case.
It was on this occasion that the minister informally advanced a request for an audience, which remained suspended. In January, he supposedly asked for it again, with no response. Until a few weeks ago, when a message from the Vatican allegedly arrived straight to Palazzo del Viminale, the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior, making it clear that a meeting can only take place if Salvini changes his stances on immigration.
In reality, Salvini's standpoint on immigration does not contradict Church teaching. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 2241) affirms:
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. ... Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
Italy's minister of the interior incessantly reaffirms his appreciation of regular immigration and constantly reminds the public that his duty is to stop out-of-control immigration not only for reasons of internal security, but also to stop the abominable human trafficking and migrant smuggling businesses.
"My goal is to save lives," he said. "And this is done by preventing the death ships from departing. These ships are a business for some people but a disgrace for the rest of the world. … The Mediterranean Sea's become a cemetery. Life is sacred, and in order to save it we must stop people from entering these sea wrecks."
While it's dutiful to mark that according to protocol the Pope is not required to meet with government ministers, it's an established fact that Pope Francis is not really observant of decorum and often acts in an improvising manner. He has met many celebrities privately in Casa Santa Marta and has granted private audiences to many anti-Catholic personalities, never demanding that they change any of their public anti-Christian positions.
He has twice received abortion champion Emma Bonino, even complimenting her as "one of Italy's greats." Bonino's now a candidate in the upcoming European Parliament elections with her own party, Più Europa ("More Europe"), financed by George Soros. Pope Francis also met several times with staunch atheist Eugenio Scalfari, founder of liberal newspaper La Repubblica, who three times published so-called "interviews" (Scalfari's controversial method is writing everything down by memory, as he doesn't take notes) which twisted the Pontiff's declarations.
In February, the Pope received the mayor of Madrid, left-wing former judge Manuela Carmena, along with party fellow Ada Colau, mayor of Barcelona ("the world's most radical mayor," as The Guardian calls her) and Oscar Camps, founder of NGO Open Arms, one of the many organisations that manage rescuing ships in the Mediterranean.
And just last week, the Vatican had no problem rescheduling teenage environmentalist Greta Thunberg's meeting with Pope Francis in order to fit her busy timetable: the appointment, initially set for June, was moved up at the family's request, since the Swedish 16-year-old was spending Holy Week in Italy to speak in the Italian Senate and to lead Rome's "school strike" on Good Friday (the remembrance of Our Lord's crucifixion is merely a holiday to the activist, and one less important than the current climate crisis).
Thunberg, who recently rose to notoriety for her Friday sit-ins for climate outside the Swedish Parliament, was greeted with encouragement by Pope Francis, with Crux defining them as "kindred" spirits.
While Matteo Salvini learned that he must rethink political views in consonance with Church teaching, 50 members of his party presented a groundbreaking bill promoting adoption at any given moment during pregnancy as a strong alternative to abortion, granting "legal subjectivity to the conceived." The Italian Democratic Party reacted stating that the League "continues its crusade against the body of women."
Ironically, the Italian Democratic Party seems to think that the League is somewhat Catholic.