Matteo Salvini - Italy Politics News Today

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Matteo Salvini slipped the rosary out of his pocket right before Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte began his speech to Parliament. He took it out and kissed it again midway through the address, just as Conte began admonishing him for exploiting his Catholic faith for political ends. The interior minister’s blatant brandishing of Catholic symbols has gone down as one of the most significant exchanges of his successful bid to topple Conte’s 14-month-old government, which collapsed Tuesday after Salvini’s League party withdrew its support. While right-wing populists in the U.S. and Europe have increasingly invoked their Christian roots to justify policies against Muslims and other migrants, Salvini’s gestures and rhetoric have carried particular resonance here since they directly challenge those of Italy’s other major figure: Pope Francis. Francis has made caring for migrants a hallmark of his papacy, traveling to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in 2013 in his first trip as pope to comfort would-be refugees who survived shipwrecks and smugglers to reach Europe. He brought 12 Syrians home with him when he visited a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, three years later, and he has turned over Vatican apartments to house new arrivals to Italy. Salvini’s challenge to Francis’ core message has not gone unnoticed by the Vatican or the Italian Catholic Church, although it remains to be seen whether his explicit religious display will resonate with rank-and-file Italians. While Italy is a majority Catholic country, many Italians don’t go to church regularly and support abortion, contraception and other…

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