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New Death Threats against Italian Bishops’ Leader

ICC Note: Catholic leader is being threatened for his willingness to speak strongly against a bill that would legally recognize same-sex unions.

4/30/07 Italy ( – A new death threat against the president of the Italian bishops’ conference has forced officials in the Genoa archdiocese to increase security around Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco.

This weekend, officials of the Genoa archdiocese reported receiving an envelope containing a bullet and a photo of the archbishop.

Police in Genoa– who had already assigned officers to guard the prelate– quickly increased their security presence around him. Archbishop Bagnasco was flanked by guards as he celebrated Mass in Genoa ‘s cathedral on Sunday, and plain-clothes police were present in the congregation.

Archbishop Bagnasco became the target of threats soon after he was selected to head the Italian bishops’ conference, and issued a strong public statement in opposition to a bill that would offer legal recognition of same-sex unions. Genoa ‘s cathedral and other Catholic churches in the city– and elsewhere around the country– have been defaced by spray-painted slogans denouncing Archbishop Bagnasco and in some cases hinting at violence against him.

The Italian bishops’ conference declined to comment on the latest threat against the archbishop, explaining that any public statement comments might encourage further tension. Spokesmen for the Genoa archdiocese said that the threat was the work of “extremists,” and some Church officials suggested that the bullet could have been sent by a single individual looking to create a public furor. But police seemed to take the threat seriously, and security agents did not leave the archbishop’s side during his Sunday public appearance.