Archive for April 2010
In September this year, the Pope Benedict XVI will pay an official visit to UK. Everyone is waiting for this event with trepidation: both intellectuals and normal citizens discuss what should be done to give Ratzinger the best welcome. The Vatican itself does not hide its excitement about the visit.
Unfortunately, today things got a bit shaky. Courtesy of the Sunday Telegraph, it transpired that the UK Home Office may not be taking this visit too seriously. The issue hinges around a memo written after a brainstorming over the Ideal Pope’s visit. The whole story is here.
Surprisingly, this accident is receiving much more attention in UK than in Italy. The Italian websites mention this accident just in passing. This is partly justified by the fact that today, 25th April, is an important date in Italy: it is the anniversary of the defeat of Fascism in 1945. The media attention has therefore focused on the celebrations taking place around the Belpaese. Among these, there has been a speech on TV by the Italian Prime Minister.
Now that elections are gone and that the TV can go back to talk politics, Berlusconi appeared on TV to tell citizens about the value of freedom, democracy, and…. the necessity to change the Italian Constitution. His argument highlighted the obvious strong connection between freedom, democracy, and himself becoming more and more powerful.
Thus, little room is left, on Italian websites, to the Pope accident. The few articles I have found loosely refer to an incompetent with-collar in the Home Office, who has been ‘removed’ already. It also seems to me that words have often been translated in a vaguely instrumental way (“silly” became “idiot”, “far-fetched” became “hard-core”, etc.). All they seem to do is to highlight that something very stupid, thus not worth discussing, happened somewehere in England..
Catholics may well feel upset by this memo: how can the British ask the Pope to do something against child abuse? And what’s this crazy thing, blessing gay couples! Gay people have no rights; in fact, they are a threat to society. Nonetheless, I think Catholics would have an interest in having the issue discussed on the Italian media. Actually, they may even ask the Pope to change plans and cancel the visit to UK. This would throw many academics and common people into dismal, true: yet, respect is respect.
Instead, the Italian media have remained quite silent on the Pope memo. No one wants to talk about it. Let’s forget it all happened, and let’s focus on freedom and democracy.
(Posters appeared today in the streets of Rome, celebrating Mussolini: “An idea vanishes, when no one is able to defend it anymore” . The phrase was meant to criticise the celebrations for the 25th of April)
More drama on the Italian scene. This time, the drama takes place at an open debate of the PDL, The People’s Freedom, Italy’s ruling coalition led by Berlusconi. For us Italians, so used to kisses, tears, love, hugs, and the various performances of the defenders of “Love that wins over hatred and envy”, today was a bit of a shock.
Here’s what happened. There were these elections in Italy, a couple of weeks ago. Against the odds, and in spite of a quite messy build-up in the final weeks, the Right Wing, Berlusconi-led coalition, brought home a clear success over the not-so-charismatic Left-Wing opposition (see previous post). The clearest outcome of the elections were that a) few people than ever went to vote and b) more people voted for the Northern League.
The Northern League is one of the most influential parties in Italy, with strong leaders and clear plans about reforming Italy. It is known for its commitment to protecting Italy’s culture and values, and for a perfectly rational attachments to tribal ceremonies like baptizing each other with the water of their sacred river Po. They use to refer to themselves as “colonies of Padania”, and are somewhat wary of big associations, like multi-region nations, not to mention the EU.
It turned out that the Northern League was the real winner of the Regional Elections: Berlusconi got less votes for himself, but could take advantage of the Northern League’s votes, given the latter belongs to the coalition he leads. As some have pointed out, this has had some serious effects on the Government’s next moves.
Enter Gianfranco Fini. This is Fini:
In spite of 16 (!) years of life together, he’s often showed a dissatisfaction with having to deal with Berlusconi. How could it be so? – one may wonder.
This unhappiness has increased after the regional election and the already mentioned Northern success. Fini, who leads the second more important Right-Wing group in the Government coalition, AN (National Alliance), got somewhat tired of the PDL’s supine obedience to the policies the Northern League is now pushing. Again, it is hard to accept this may be possible..
After weeks of mild reciprocal challenges, the two came to a showdown today. Fini got to talk at the PDL convention, and he raised some criticisms directly at Berlusconi. Now, it is important to specify some things:
a) no one criticises Berlusconi
b) even more importantly, no one ever criticises Berlusconi in public
c) no one ever criticises Berlusconi in front of TV cameras
Fini breached these three fundamental principles of Italian democracy, and in fact he has already been labelled a communist (according to the Italian rule that says “against Berlusconi” = against democracy = communist). He went on the stage and raised questions to the PM: mainly, he questioned the direction the PDL is taking. He highlighted contradiction between claiming to intend to defend the authority of the law and enacting some policies. He prided himself for criticising the PM openly in spite of being ridiculed by ‘certain press’ owned by PM’s relatives. He congratulates the PM as the real winner of the regional elections, yet he also asked “to be honest: now that the elections have gone, let’s say clearly that none of us believe there was a plot from the judges to deprive us of the victory, but that we just messed it up ourselves..”.
Too much, even for an ex-fascist. I’m surprised he’s still alive. Berlusconi got on the stage after him, and made it clear to him that if he wanted to make criticisms of the Government’s action, he should abandon his role of President of the Lower House of the Parliament, because he is meant to be super partes. Curiously, Berlusconi never gave similar orders to the President of the Senate, Renato Schifani.
“Our party has been exposed to public humiliation by its own members! Gianfranco, let’s talk to each other clearly! You said you are ashamed of having formed the PDL! This is the truth!!” Then he continued: “You are supposed to be super-partes, you cannot make judgments on the Government action! You cannot make these judgments if you are President of the Lower House.” Fini, from the audience, stood up and, waving his finger at Berlusconi, asked “Or what? Are you going to kick me out?”
The country is under shock. A breach in the PDL seems hard to avoid. Right-wing voters express their rage against Fini, “the traitor”, the mercenary sold to the communists. Left-wing voters struggle to acknowledge sympathy for an ex-fascist who has also shared Berlusconi’s bed for the last 16 years. Berlusconi is surely preparing one of his stylish coupe de theatre. The Northern League, in the meantime, appears unshaken by these issues.
I have disregarded the blog in the last two weeks – apologies to myself for this.
During this time, things didn’t stop happening in Italy. The Vatican has been at the centre of some stories, some polemics, which nonetheless it successfully rejected in its usually moderate, though still strongly persuasive, way.
In the face of accusations that represent, obviously, nothing more than another attempted coup in Italy, it is important to defend what the Vatican does to protect the catholic values and to ensure that their integrity be not compromised. In an ever-expanding and multicultural society, the Vatican’s function is, to use the Pope’s own slang, a cardinal one.
It is in this spirit that a documentary was presented in Italy last year, about the role of the woman in the Italian culture. This documentary, titled “Il Corpo Delle Donne” (“The Body of the Women”), seeks to give evidence that the catholic values are still thriving in Italy, mainly because of the vigilant presence of the Vatican, that keeps an eye on what goes on TV at dinner time, on Sunday afternoon, etc., basically in those moments when families (the Family!) gather around the table and in front of the TV, thanking God for this food and this TV news.
The documentary is subtitled in English. It lasts 25 minutes. Please watch it, and let me and/or the Pope know what you think about it.