Cardinal Romeo, social justice and homophobia

Festival of Santa Rosalia, Palermo, July 2013

An indicator of the economic crisis in Sicily is in the powerful speech delivered by Palermo’s Cardinal Romeo at the 2013 Festival of Santa Rosalia in July in Palermo. He spoke with compassion of the despair at the lack of opportunity in Sicily, and decried the “phobic discrimination” that has led to legislative constraints on freedom of expression. 

If only the Cardinal could see the contradiction between his moving voice for tolerance and his administration’s homophobia! Reportedly the Cardinal’s spokesman objected to the inclusion of symbols for same-sex love with symbols for heterosexual love in the colorful multimedia imagery shown to celebrate Palermo’s rich urban spirit as part of the week-long annual city-wide Festival of Santa Rosalia.  

Here below are excerpts of the Cardinal’s speech, as well as excerpts of the news coverage of the clerical homophobia. The translations are my own.

Festival of Santa Rosalia
Address to the City of Palermo of His Eminence Cardinal Paolo Romeo,
Archbishop of Palermo, Piazza Marina, July 15, 2013

This edition of the Festival of Santa Rosalia, dedicated precisely to the outlook on the future through the eyes of children, obligates us to [undertake] serious reflection: let’s try to look through the eyes of those who are littlest and most vulnerable, and let’s ask what [kind of] City we are passing on to new generations.

Our Palermo today lives the stress of our present time, tested by large, grave social issues. It is impossible to deny that there are many intrusive problems amid a larger socio-economic crisis that is evident at all levels with worrying signs of a recession.

As a Father and Priest, I [have] present in my heart, like a thorn, the many dramas of the homeless, the difficulties [suffered by] ex-convicts in reentering society, the marginalization experienced by so many immigrants, the growing number of unemployed after the closure of so many enterprises and firms.    

But our young people worry me most of all… I perceive such uneasiness… Resignation and defeat… I, for one – as a man and as a Bishop – really feel ashamed for what these children of ours are living [today].

We all feel embittered when faced with the slaps of the tolls of unemployment, which strike the world of young people so dramatically; we all feel knocked off balance by the uncertainty with which the new generations try to confront life and seek to build their future.

How can we suggest today to two young people to put together a family or to offer with stability a contribution to the growth of society? Toward what goals can we direct the lives of so many young college graduates for whom there are no fields of work ready to assume them? Will the hope for so many young people always have to be tied to the systems of favoritism and nepotism that pollute both politics and society? Or will they always have to settle for temporary work?

Hope cannot be relegated to the path of emigration [from Italy], which deprives us of the enjoyment of our national and international resources, which are only rendered operative in the presence of a dynamic public administration.

So many honest efforts to construct a future end up in vain. Too many are the victims of this horizon of stagnancy and resignation. Many people stop even trying to find feasible solutions, [and fall into] the palpable risk of entering upon the easier road of illegality, of misuse of power and micro-criminality, even that of the mafia.

Notwithstanding the many praiseworthy efforts accomplished in a synergy of daily action by the Forces of Order, loads of organized criminal activities continue to snake their way into the region, and – above all through the coerced payoff to the mafia, the trafficking of drugs and prostitution – continue to enslave, to sow the seeds of death.

To the social woe we add a cultural degradation without precedents, marked by a dangerous individualism and by a real “dictatorship of relativism” – so called by Benedict XVI – a relativism that “does not recognize anything as definitive and leaves as the ultimate measure only its own ego and its own desires” [citing L’Osservatore Romano (April 19, 2005)].

Anyone who, arguing seriously and serenely, wants to affirm valid principles and values – valid because they are inscribed in the reality of human nature and in the project of an authentic and integral development of individuals and of the community – often comes to be accused by the cultural backwardness, the disrespectful incivility, the phobic discrimination even to the point of punishing with legislative provisions that threaten the liberty of expression. No!  

Sarah Scarafia, “Festa di Santa Rosalia: l’ira della Curia per i simboli gay in cattedrale,”

la Repubblica Palermo (July 15, 2013),

Yesterday evening, among the images projected on the fa├žade of the duomo, [there were] also those of Pride – a choice that was a provocation for the Bishop’s palace, or rather even worse, “a shame,” to express it in the terms used by don Fabrizio Moscato, the spokesman of Archbishop Paolo Romeo, who wrote a harsh comment on Facebook: “Shame!”

And he added a verbal torrent: “We have touched bottom! Homosexual ideology projected on the noble southern porch of the Cathedral of Palermo on the occasion of the Festival of Saint Rosalia! … But who could possibly have arguments to defend a real insult to the nobility of the faith represented by the Saint and also the Cathedral?” …

The reply of the City government was conveyed with a measured tone in a note distributed in the afternoon by Mayor Leoluca Orlando and the Cultural Commissioner Francesco Giambrone: “Yesterday evening’s show was in its complexity a way of narrating the city, a celebration to tell of its many parts, to represents the many tiles of the mosaic of which it is comprised. [The] celebration was the mirror of a city that is made of such riches, diversity and souls that coexist peacefully.”