ROME — The local Jewish community and Catholic Church in Rome on Tuesday strongly condemned as “offensive and unacceptable” a funeral procession outside a local church in which the casket was draped in a Nazi flag and mourners gave the fascist salute.
Photos and video of the scene outside St. Lucia church following the Monday funeral service were published by the Italian online news portal Open. They showed around two dozen people gathered outside the church as the swastika-draped casket emerged, shouting “Presente!” (“Present!”) with their right arm extended in the fascist salute.
In a statement Tuesday, the Vicariate of Rome strongly condemned the scene and stressed that neither the parish priest, nor the priest who celebrated the funeral, knew what was going to transpire outside after the funeral Mass ended.
It called the swastika-emblazoned Nazi flag “a horrendous symbol irreconcilable with Christianity.”
“This ideological and violent exploitation, especially following an act of worship near a sacred place, remains serious, offensive and unacceptable for the church community of Rome and for all people of good will in our city,” it said.
The statement quoted the parish priest, the Rev. Alessandro Zenobbi, as distancing himself and the church from “every word, gesture and symbol used outside the church, which are attributed to extremist ideologies far from the message of the Gospel of Christ.”
Thread: Skandal in #Rom: #Faschisten begleiten den #Nazi Alessia Augello v. d. #ForzaNuova auf dem letzten Weg. Stehen nach der Trauermesse im Spalier & zeigen den Hitlergruß. Auf dem Sarg liegt eine Hackenkreuzfahne. -§86 StGB Berichterstattung frei, letzten Tweet beachten- 1/x pic.twitter.com/WvxrAL2yM7
— affeu (@affeu2) January 11, 2022
The local Jewish community also condemned the display.
“It is unacceptable that a flag with a swastika can still be shown in public in this day and age, especially in a city that saw the deportation of its Jews by the Nazis and their fascist collaborators,” read a statement from the community carried by Reuters.
Italian news reports identified the deceased as Alessia Augello, a 44-year-old former militant of the extreme right-wing, neo-fascist Forza Nuova group. She died over the weekend of a blood clot.
The group was blamed for violent protests in central Rome last October that targeted Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s office and parliament.
Forza Nuova was created in 1997 in the tradition of the violent, extreme right-wing organizations active in Italy’s so-called Years of Lead in the 1970s, and grew into a national force in 2008.
The group is openly neo-fascist. Its current leader, Roberto Fiore, a 62-year-old father to 11 children, was found guilty in the 1980s of subversive crime and founding a far-right armed political movement.
La Repubblica said police had been present at the funeral and were investigating.
Pope Francis is technically the bishop of Rome, but he delegates the day-to-day management of the diocese to his vicar, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.