The Vatican has written to the Italian government warning that the anti-homophobia bill could violate the 92-year-old Lateran Treaty that regulates relations between Rome and the Catholic Church, and restrict religious freedom in Italy.
On Tuesday, Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported that Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, delivered a letter to the Rome embassy to the Holy See to express concern about Gay rights bill Under consideration by the Italian Parliament.
The Vatican confirmed that it delivered a letter to the Italian embassy inside the Holy See last week, but did not comment on its contents. Direct interference by the Vatican in the Italian law issue is extremely rare, with diplomatic discussions between the city-state and Rome rarely seeping into public opinion.
The protest is due to proposed anti-homophobia legislation – known as the Zahn Bill, after it was proposed by Representative Alessandro Zahn from the center. The letter said it would threaten the Church’s “freedom of thought” and voiced concerns that religious schools would have to participate in a new national day against homophobia.
In 1929, the then Kingdom of Italy signed an agreement with Pope Pius XI known as the Lateran Treaty that recognized the Vatican as an independent country and provided compensation to the Holy See for the loss of the Papal States. The Convention was recognized in the Constitution of Italy in 1948.
Italy has laws in place that punish crimes for discrimination on racial or religious grounds but do not provide specific protections based on sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity. Likewise, the Vatican has often condemned discrimination but has also expressed concern about theories of gender that blur the differences between men and women.
Recognition of gay rights has become a battleground between left and right in Italy, with Matteo Salvini, the leader of the anti-immigration League party, criticizing the proposed legislation since it was first introduced last year.
Italy passed a law recognizing same-sex marriage in 2016 under Matteo Renzi’s government, despite fierce opposition from the Catholic Church. Senator Roberto Calderoli said at the time that any lawmaker who voted for him “would go to hell.”
On Tuesday, Salvini said he was willing to discuss the issue with Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, “to guarantee rights and punish discrimination and violence without giving in to ideologies or censorship, and without invading the sphere of families and schools.”
A survey published by Eurobarometer last year found LGBT acceptance in Italy was below the European average, with 55 percent of Italians agreeing that a lesbian, gay or bisexual person should be prime minister, compared to 90 percent in Sweden and 93 percent . in the Netherlands.