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Police Prevent Protests in Front of the Vatican

Abuse survivors were not allowed to demonstrate with the "Hammock Bishop" in Rome


Der Hängemattenbischof vor den Toren des Vatikans – kurz bevor er "einkassiert" wurde.

The Italian police prohibited the victims of the Catholic abuse scandal from demonstrating in front of the Vatican with the internationally renowned sculpture of the "Hammock Bishop". The banner "Aufklärung auf Katholisch", which shows the late Pope Benedict XVI, was also not allowed to be displayed at the demonstration last Saturday. Alleged reason: denigration of a head of state. In Meloni's Italy, freedom of expression is evidently held in low regard.

The Giordano Bruno Foundation has been supporting victims of the church abuse scandal for many years, whether with the legal expertise of the Institute for Secular Law (ifw) or with the high-profile art campaigns of the "Eleventh Commandment". Both the sculpture of the "Hammock Bishop" ("The tireless investigation of child abuse") and the banner "Aufklärung auf Katholisch" ("Enlightenment, Catholic Style"), which shows the late Pope Benedict (alias Joseph Ratzinger), Cardinal Woelki of Cologne and Cardinal Marx of Munich in the guise of the "three monkeys" ("See nothing, hear nothing, say nothing"), were frequently used.

When international survivor organizations wanted to hold a demonstration in Rome against the cover-up of the abuse scandal in the days leading up to the World Synod of Bishops, the gbs campaign team immediately agreed to travel across the Alps with the Hammock Bishop to support the protest of the abuse survivors. However, on the day before the demonstration, the car transporting the sculpture by Düsseldorf artist Jacques Tilly was stopped by the Roman police. The crew members were interrogated for hours and escorted in the dark with blue lights to a remote parking lot. When David Farago and Ricarda Hinz's team arrived the next morning, they were met by Italian police and informed that the car would not be allowed to take part in the demonstration or drive through the center of Rome – allegedly because the sculpture would obscure the city's landmarks, even though the Hammock Bishop is smaller than most trucks driving through Rome.

Farago and Hinz decided to take only the large banner "Aufklärung auf Katholisch" to the demonstration of international survivors of abuse. Once they reached Castel Sant'Angelo, the place where Giordano Bruno was tortured 425 years ago, Italian police officers stood in their way and forced them to take down the banner. Supposedly, the drawing, which could be shown on the German major news program Tagesthemen without any problems, was a denigration of a head of state, namely Pope Benedict XVI, who died last year. The fact that even such harmless banners are no longer allowed to be shown at demonstrations in Italy left Farago and Hinz stunned: "We knew that the Italian head of government Meloni admires Mussolini, but we didn't expect clerico-fascism to have advanced to this extent in Italy."

Matthias Katsch from the victims' organization "Eckiger Tisch" explained: "Even in Rome, it should be possible to publicly criticize the Catholic Church for its response to mass cases of sexual violence especially against children and young people. This also applies to a portrayal that shows former Pope Benedict turning a blind eye to the abuse." According to Katsch, the protest activities of around 70 people from 25 countries who had gathered in Rome on Saturday evening were "massively obstructed" by the Italian police: "Apparently, the Italian police had set themselves the task of limiting the visibility of this protest as much as possible and allowing the registered event to take place almost to the exclusion of the public."

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