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Things That Happen in Italy

Posts Tagged ‘Vatican

San Remo, or Italy at its best

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There is (at least) one week every year in which everything is put on hold, in Italy, and the entire country focuses on one specific event: the Sanremo Music Festival.

It’s a 5 day-singing competition, where basically people sing songs, a jury gives votes, each day someone is excluded, and eventually one wins. Normally, the songs are cheesy and boring. One of the boring songs wins the festival; there is a separate category for the “Young Promises”, with its own winner. Sometimes good singers have come up from the Festival (one being, for example, Alex Baroni – whom I really liked and who, sadly, died a few years ago). On the downside, the Festival has given to the world Andrea Bocelli.

The weeks before the Festival are characterised by a build-up of national thrilling about what the guests will be, who will present the show, who will do what, who will say what, and sometimes even who will sing what. There is normally a standard structure: the presenter is a man, a popular face from TV or music. Then there are two co-presenters, one at his left and one at his right: these are, by rules, mega-hot women with a (recent) past of being sluts or similar. The Festival has just started and will run until the 18th of February. This year’s and last year’s team was the same: presenter, the man, the famous singer from the 60s, Gianni Morandi; left wing, Elisabetta Canalis, famous for being Goerge Clooney’s date for a while; and Belen Rodriguez, famous for having long legs.

Here’s a group picture:

Morandi is the one in the middle.

Being at its 60th-something edition, there is some concern that the attachment of the Italian population to the festival might decrease. So, the authors have devised a series of cunning strategies to attract a bigger audience.

This was the most successful one, which took place on the first night of the Festival. Enters one of the co-presenters, Belen Rodriguez:

Yes, you may want to zoom in.

The day after this show, the Vatican expressed harsh criticisms.

The target was a man called Adriano Celentano. A guest of the Festival, during the show he publicly called for people to stop reading L’Avvenire, the Vatican’s newspaper. The Bishops commented that Celentano’s comment was inappropriate, and that he should not appear again at the following nights of the Festival.

Immediately after that, an executive of RAI, the Italian national TV channel that hosts the Festival, and who has an interest in getting as big an audience as possible, joined the Vatican’s condemnation, pointing out that Celentano’s language “was unsuitable for public service”.

More songs, and more vaginas, to come in the next two days.


Written by TheItalianist

17/02/2012 at 14:30

Prime Ministers Vs. God

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We all know that one of the main reasons why Berlusconi is a great politician is because he can talk to people with people’s language. Rather than using complex jargon that normal citizens could not understand, he appeals to everyday talk, so to reach the hearth of his beloved, and loving, voters, I mean compatriots.

Such approach was made immortal when Berlusconi famously defined himself “a worker President”, namely a usual worker paid 800 Euros per month, who nonetheless finds himself to be a billionaire, the owner of most of the media, and the country’s ruler.

He loves going among his own people. He does not like it very much when others talk: however, when it comes to him talking, he does perform at his best.

Last week, a video appeared of one of these political performances, which took place in L’Aquila, Italy, just before the G8 meeting in July 2009. The Italian PM, during one of his, at that time, frequent visits to that earthquake-striken land, hangs out with a group of military, and decides to tell them a funny joke, a specialty of his.

The joke, unsurprisingly, hinges around Rosy Bindi. This is Rosy Bindi:

She is the not-so-charming female politician from the Left, who Berlusconi has targeted several times, once famously saying that she was more beautiful than intelligent. In L’Aquila, he could not help going back to his repressed sexual desire for her.

His witty joke, still referring to Bindi’s lack of those political qualities that he cares about, has however a surprising conclusion: it ends with a profanity that the subject of the story utters when facing Bindi’s ugliness. In fact, the core of the story lies in the subject saying “Orcoddio” when seeing her, which literally translated means “God is a pig”. This is what in Italian is called a “bestemmia“. A short film of this comic intercourse between Berlusconi and the military can be found here. Funny enough, the movie ends with Berlusconi telling his audience “You won’t betray me, will you?”. Sadly, someone did.

Berlusconi’s perfection notwithstanding, someone might have felt not at ease. Italy is, first and foremost, a catholic country, hence it should not let profanities go uncondemned. Furthermore, Berlusconi opponents could have stopped boiling children for a moment, pointing out to the fact that in Italy profanity is a crime, hence Silvio could face the legal consequences of his witty joke.

Thank God, or pig, the Vatican stepped in to have its influential voice heard on this question. Monsignor Fisichella was quick to specify that things ought to be “put into context”, and that we should not “instumentalise” an event without looking at the particular circumstances.

But how do you put into context a profanity? And, most of all, isn’t this a case of what His Infallible Sanctity the Pope has condemned as “relativism”?

Apparently, not. Catholics, as usual, if you’re awake send me a signal.

Written by TheItalianist

15/10/2010 at 19:56

No worries, you’re just a pedophile

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The Vatican is always in the first row in the fight against the evil. We see it everyday, with the never-ending effort of its ministers and leaders to spread the word of the Lord and defend it against the vices lurking in contemporary society. The media are also employed to make sure that the good words reach the delicate ears of the faithful. Not accidentally is the Vatican in the heart of Italy, a country where its missionary aims do find a very fertile soil.

Like all the heroes fighting for justice, however, the Vatican too has had too face obstacles and criticisms in the face of recent scandals. One of those who strenuously rejected the allegations against the Church is bishop Giacomo Babini.

This is Don Giacomo:

In April 2010, he stood up to defend the Pope against the various accusations moved against him. Recognizing the gravity of the alleged scandal, Don Giacomo decided to speak up and to warn the public that a scary plot was in action to undermine the Vatican’s image. Giacomo’s shocking revelation about the plot can be found here.

Not only is Giacomo a bishop, he is also an emeritus bishop. When one is an emeritus bishop, whatever that means, it must also mean that he has to do more than a normal bishop. So Giacomo felt compelled to say more about the scandals in which the Vatican seems to be involved, particularly in connection to pedophilia, a long lasting element of the Vatican’s missionary practice. Don Giacomo has been interviewed a few days ago on a catholic blog (I do not mention the blog itself, but you can find a report about that interview on this more hit-deserving website). On that occasion, he was asked to explain his thoughts on the concept of homosexual priests.

Here is Giacomo’s telling answer (my catholic translation): “I already said, many times, that I consider homosexuality a real perversion against nature. Now, if these things [namely, being homosexual] are committed in such an obscene way by priests, then it would be the case that, as it once used to be done, we should send these priests to life jail. (…) Homosexuality in a priest, if translated into a depraved practice, is even worse than pedophilia. (…) As a priest, I would be more sympathetic with a paedophile who repents, and suffers for his condition, than with these vicious beings. I tell you more, if I had met a paedophile priest, I would not have denounced him, I would have tried to redeem him. A father, such as a bishop is for the priests, does not denounce his sons who do wrong and repent. However, with the vicious ones we must be intransigent.” Catholically added emphasis.

Sorry kids, we need to redeem these guys. Now shut up and go back into that dark corner, until we come and get you again.” They must have removed this last bit from the interview..

A comment on the Vatican, from a world-wide famous, and recently deceased, Professor of the London School of Economics, can be found here.

Written by TheItalianist

07/08/2010 at 12:29

The Ideal Visit

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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)

Written by TheItalianist

25/04/2010 at 19:37

The Body of the Women

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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.

Il Corpo Delle Donne

Written by TheItalianist

16/04/2010 at 14:37

Ego Te Absolvo

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Something quite serious happened yesterday in Italy, but it seems to have gone unnoticed. To be more precise, the event has received partial coverage on the media, but I think a very superficial and slightly instrumental one.

The Pope received yesterday, in the Vatican, a delegation of members of the Italian Civil Protection. The event was meant to celebrate the Civil Protection’s work, particularly in the recent earthquake in L’Aquila on 6th April 2009.

During the meeting, the Pope addressed especially Guido Bertolaso, the head of the Civil Protection. Bertolaso is currently at the centre of a massive scandal hinging on corruption and prostitution. The Pope stated “I thank [Bertolaso] for all he does for civil society and for us”. The Pope also praised all the volunteers of the Civil Protection for their effort in helping the relief operations after the earthquake that hit L’Aquila 11 months ago.

The praise to the volunteers is deserved, even necessary. The work they have been doing to help the affected population of L’Aquila is truly admirable. It is important that the institutions, and the Vatican, acknowledge the country’s gratitude and appreciation for this work. What I think is somewhat shocking is the presence of Bertolaso at this event.

Guido Bertolaso, who has been mentioned in this blog before, is at the moment one of the dodgiest persons on the Italian scene (and this says already a lot.) An inquiry over the way he used to award  contracts for relief operations, for important events such as the G8 and for the Swimming World Championship in Rome two years ago, revealed a system based on pure corruption. There is evidence that one of the ways in which Bertolaso used to award contracts involved being offered prostitutes in health centres in Rome. In phone tapping records, Bertolaso is heard calling the manager of the health centre to ask whether Francesca, a girl to which he would “like to give a ripassata (a good going-over)”, was available that evening.

Another key individual in this sleazy affair is Angelo Balducci, the head of the state public works office, who is actually under arrest in connection with this story. Balducci was the person Bertolaso appointed to realise the G8 in Sardinia, then in L’Aquila, last year. It has emerged in the last few days that he (Balducci) is allegedly involved in yet another scandal at the Vatican. Balducci has worked as an usher since the 90s at the Apostolic Palace in Rome, being a member of an elite group within the Vatican called The Gentlemen of His Holiness. You can read about this story here.

Back to the Pope. How on Earth can the Pope welcome a person like Bertolaso? It is certainly true that one is innocent until proven guilty, and I am not hereby condemning Bertolaso. But he might be guilty. He might have gone with prostitutes, sold contracts to incompetent people, accepted bribes, etc. Though it is important, as I said already, that volunteers of the Civil Protection be thanked, isn’t it at least inappropriate to celebrate a person involved in such a massive scandal?

At the end of the day, we are talking of the Church. Catholic values, the values that no one can touch because they are the values that define our identity, our history! Pope Ratzinger has even written a book about Values!

Yet, at the same time in which the veil may be lifted over a system relying on bribery, greed (especially about the earthquake in L’Aquila), and sexual exploitation, one of the biggest suspects is welcome by the Pope in the Vatican!

Ratzinger did the same thing last year, when he met the Italian PM while the latter was at the centre of a very similar scandal. How can a religious leader let individuals who are publicly under inquiry for immoral behaviour inside a place that is meant to be the sanctuary of morality?

What surprises me most is that no one is pointing out how strange this is. Italian Catholics jump from their chairs as soon as someone mentions  removing crucifixes from public schools, or allowing homosexuals to get married. No one dare criticise a religious leader who not only meets publicly with a person of seriously dubious morality, but also celebrates him for “the good things he has done for us”. The Pope has basically absolved Bertolaso publicly, in spite of the serious evidence against the latter’s innocence. “It’s time to stop talking about scandals” – an emotional Bertolaso commented after meeting the Pope.

One might find this slightly revolting. Where are the Catholics now? Do they all agree that it’s time to stop talking about scandals?

Read this for a suggestion of why the Pope may be interested in forgiving “some” Italian sinners.

Written by TheItalianist

07/03/2010 at 16:21

Two Weeks of Italian News

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I have been unable to write on the blog in the last two weeks, and Italy hasn’t stood waiting for me.. So I’m going to post a brief overview of what’s going on in the cradle of the Roman Empire, hoping to go more into details over the next days.

Legitimate Impediment

In its strenuous fight against communist judges seeking to prevent the PM from saving the country from hell, the Italian Government has proposed a new bill exempting politicians from appearing at the trial if a ‘legitimate impediment’ occurs. On a loose reading of this proposal, a Minister (especially a Prime Minister) can say no to an order to appear at a trial (especially a trial where he is the accused one) if he’s busy.

Unnatural Rights

The Pope has urged Catholics churches in England and Wales to oppose the Equality Bill. The idea of equal rights, said the Pope, is against the natural law. Some failed to see the Catholic spirit behind Ratzi’s pledge.

Silent voting

Italy is the country of the freedom of information and of expression, as it is well known. The Government is committed to preserving citizens’ right to be informed and to make free choices about which Party to support. It is in this spirit that, in view of the regional elections in late March 2010, the Government has banned all political talks on TV in the month before the elections. This is meant to guarantee that voters’ minds not be polluted with subversive messages. The bill applies only to State-owned TV channels, RAI, and not to private ones, owned by the PM.

How to lead a proper relief operation

In the aftermath of the catastrophic Haiti earthquake, the head of Italian Civic Protection Department, Guido Bertolaso, (a man who worked closely with the PM to help the population of l’Aquila, in central Italy, after the earthquake a year ago), criticised the US Government for the way it was handling the relief operation. Bertolaso, whom I have discovered today to have been the head of the Civic Protection Dept under the last 14 legislatures, is now on the news again:  phone tapping have been published concerning the way he runs the business of civic protection

In the Name of the Father

The son of  Vito Ciancimino, the first politician to be found guilty of Mafia membership, during a trial has produced a letter his father allegedly sent to Silvio Berlusconi, outlining conditions for a pact between the Mafia and the State. The papello, as the letter is called, contained a series of requests the Mafia made to the State to stop the campaign of terrorist attacks in 1992-3. This casts some shadows on the origins of Berlusconi’s political career. More on the papello can be found here.

For the Francophones

France is still coping with the defeat in the Wold Cup final, four years ago. So, they are still trying to show that they are better than Italy, and that they should have won instead…

Written by TheItalianist

17/02/2010 at 18:10