The Holy See has distanced itself from a warning in a Catholic magazine Famiglia Cristiana that Italy is in danger of returning to fascism.
The Times Online reports the Vatican distanced itself from a series of blistering attacks on the centre-right government of Silvio Berlusconi by the mass circulation Famiglia Cristiana.
The magazine, owned by the Paulist Fathers, has repeatedly attacked the Berlusconi Government since it came to power in May on a law and order platform, arguing the Right's targeting of immigrants and gypsies as part of a crackdown on crime is racist and xenophobic, the paper says.
In June it compared the government's "security decree" to the racial laws imposed by Benito Mussolini, Italy's fascist dictator, in the 1930's.
In its latest editorial it says: "We hope the suspicion that fascism is being reborn in a different form proves to be untrue." Drawing on an analysis in the French Catholic publication Esprit, it compared the fingerprinting of Roma children in Italian gypsy camps to the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis before and during the Second World War.
Government ministers rounded in fury on the magazine, with one saying that the magazine was itself displaying a fascist mentality by making intemperate attacks on a democratically elected government.
As the row deepened, Vatican spokesperson, Fr Federico Lombardi, stepped in to say that although Famiglia Cristiana was an important Catholic publication, its views did not reflect those of either the Holy See or the Italian Bishops Conference.
"The positions it takes are exclusively the responsibility of its editors," Fr Lombardi said.
Culture Minister, Sandro Bondi, alleged Famiglia Cristiana was a "Catholic Communist" publication driven by a "visceral hatred" for Mr Berlusconi.
Last week the magazine criticised the deployment of troops in Italian cities alongside police, accused the government of ''uselessly playing soldiers to combat false security problems. It added: "Not even in Angola do they do this."
Antonio Sciortino, the editor of Famiglia Cristiana, said he was "amazed" at the reaction. "We have no prejudice against the Berlusconi Government, we took the same line during the previous centre-left government of Romano Prodi," he said. "It is the right of citizens to judge the government, any government, in a free debate."
But Rosy Bindi, a leading Catholic in the opposition centre-left Democratic Party, defended Famiglia Cristiana's stance, Monsters and Critics says.
The magazine, she said was exposing the governing conservatives attempt to "manipulate" their relationship with the Church, on the one hand claiming to defend the rights of the family and Italy's "Christian roots", and on the other violating the principles of solidarity with the weak and vulnerable.
SOURCEVatican distances itself from Catholic magazine's warning of fascist revival (Times Online, 14/8/08)
Concern for "return to fascism" in Italy not shared by Vatican (Monsters and Critics, 14/8/08)