Interview. An ex-bishop from Caserta, near Naples, calls for resistance to anti-migrant and anti-poor policies. ‘The Church, bishops, priests and Christians must all practice civil disobedience, accepting all its consequences … even going to prison if necessary.’

Clergy for civil disobedience: ‘It is a Gospel-derived imperative’

“I solemnly pledge to engage in civil disobedience against unjust laws aimed at immigrants and the poor. And I am asking Christians to do so as well, those who are really putting the Gospel first, as well as all who believe in justice.” 

This is the message of Father Raffaele Nogaro, the former bishop of Caserta, who has always been on the front line fighting to defend the have-nots, migrants and women exploited by human traffickers. He has been scolded at times by the ecclesiastical authorities, and more often condemned by those who happen to be in positions of power: not so long ago it was the Democrats; now it’s the Lega. 

“I applaud and support the protest of the farm workers in Puglia and the bishop of Bari, Monsignor Cacucci, who supported their cause,” Nogaro tells il manifesto. He adds, in a determined tone: “In our situation, in Italy today, the Church, bishops, priests and Christians must all practice civil disobedience, accepting all its consequences, even at the price of being investigated, convicted, even going to prison if necessary.”

The Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan calls for it.

Certainly. We have a duty to defend and help those in need, the poor, the farm workers, the migrants. Christians are called by God to be good Samaritans, it is a Gospel-derived imperative.

The workers have occupied the cathedral of Bari, taking up as their slogan the words of Pope Francis, who said that “work gives dignity to man.” Does the Church agree?

Work offers both daily bread and dignity. And we must vigorously defend the rights of farm workers, migrants and all the exploited workers. However, it seems to me that in reality, only few priests and bishops are following the line set by Pope Francis. So it’s not so much the Church as such, because the Church has betrayed the people so many times, but every single disciple of Christ must reach out towards those in need.

Have the recent legislative measures worsened the situation?

I am outraged by certain rules, ordered by the government and approved by Parliament, which are violent, which are trampling on the dignity of human beings and offending human life. Unfortunately, the brutal words of Minister Salvini about security are being met with sympathy by many Catholics, and also by many priests and several bishops.

It’s not over yet: next week, Parliament will discuss the “Security 2” decree. You, along with Father Zanotelli, Don Santoro, many members of religious orders and ordinary believers, are protesting against it by fasting and marching in the streets, in the Chamber of Deputies.

It’s not possible to promote the security of some people by compromising the lives and dignity of other people who are in difficulty, such as migrants. The first security decree, and now this “Security 2” decree, if it is approved, are condemning the poor and migrants. And they are also condemning those who rescue them and defend them. They do this by promoting and fueling lies about the work of individuals and organizations of goodwill, such as NGOs. That’s why I’m saying that the only way is civil disobedience against these unjust laws.

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