The Vatican has written to the Italian government warning that an anti-homophobia bill could violate the 92-year-old Lateran Treaty governing relations between Rome and the Catholic Church, and limit religious freedom in Italy.
On Tuesday, the Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, handed a letter to Rome’s embassy in the Holy See to express its concern about the gay rights bill under consideration by the Italian parliament.
The Vatican confirmed it had sent a letter to the Italian embassy in the Holy See last week, but did not comment on its contents. Direct intervention by the Vatican on an issue of Italian law is extremely rare, with diplomatic discussions between the city state and Rome rarely spreading in public view.
The protest is for proposed anti-homophobia legislation – known as the Zan bill, after center-left lawmaker Alexander Zan proposed it. The letter said it threatened the Church’s “freedom of thought” and expressed fear that religious schools would be forced to participate in a new national day against homophobia.
In 1929, the then Kingdom of Italy signed an agreement with Pope Pius XI known as the Lateran Treaty that recognized the Vatican as an independent state and gave compensation to the Holy See for the loss of the Papal States. The agreement was recognized in the Italian constitution in 1948.
Italy has existing laws that punish crimes committed for discrimination on racial or religious grounds, but do not provide specific protection based on sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity. Similarly, the Vatican has often condemned discrimination but has also expressed concern about gender theories that blur differences between men and women.
Recognition of gay rights has become a battleground between Italy’s left and right, with Matteo Salvini, leader of the Anti-Migration League party, exploiting the proposed legislation since it was introduced for the first time last year.
Italy passed a law recognizing same-sex unions in 2016 under the government of Matteo Renzi, despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church. League Senator Roberto Calderoli said at the time that any lawmaker who voted in favor “will go to hell.”
On Tuesday, Salvini said he was willing to discuss the issue with Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left democratic party, to “guarantee rights and punish discrimination and violence without giving in to ideology or censorship,” and without invading the camp of families and schools. ”
A survey published by Eurobarometer last year found that the acceptance of LGBT people in Italy was lower than the European average, with 55 per cent of Italians accepting a gay, lesbian or bisexual person as prime minister. compared with 90 per cent in Sweden and 93 per cent in the Netherlands.