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Italy's bishops draw attention to suffering families in message to new prime minister

Italian flag Credit Curioso Shutterstock Curioso/Shutterstock.

The president of the national bishops’ conference has welcomed Italy’s new government with a message to Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who was sworn in Saturday.

Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti said the bishops are sure Draghi “will want to give priority attention to the people and families most marked by suffering, precariousness and the economic crisis.”

Draghi, an economist and banker, has formed a national unity government in Italy after being called in by President Sergio Mattarella following the collapse of the previous coalition last month.

Mattarella officially appointed Draghi prime minister in a ceremony Feb. 13. The new government is a mix of technocrats and politicians.

The Italian bishops watched the developments of the political crisis with “trepidation and concern,” Bassetti stated, emphasizing the importance of unity as the country faces “the heavy, even tragic, fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” including “new and widespread poverty.”

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Bassetti added that “the Church in Italy will be an attentive and collaborative interlocutor, as has always been the case, in respect of mutual competences.”

Earlier this month, Italy’s national statistics office Istat reported that the country’s economy shrank by an estimated 8.9% last year, its biggest contraction since the end of World War II.

With over 420,000 jobs lost from February to December 2020, the Church in Italy has warned about the increasing number of “new poor” in the country.

The John Paul II National Anti-Usury Council has identified that in Italy, 3 million households, including families and family businesses -- about 7.5 million individuals -- are insolvent, and that 350,000 families are at risk of usury, especially by criminal organizations.

There is hope that the 73-year-old Draghi, president of the European Central Bank from 2011 to 2019, can save Italy’s economy, like he saved the failing euro during the Eurozone crisis.

“Super Mario,” as some have hailed the technocrat, was also formerly president of the Bank of Italy. Last year, Pope Francis named him to an honored position at the Vatican as one of 26 ordinary academicians of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.

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In his message, the president of the bishops’ conference praised the new prime minister’s emphasis on European politics “with an eye to solidarity between nations, peace, sustainable development and social justice.”

“I would like to offer you my best wishes for the important and delicate task that awaits you and the new government in such a complex phase for the history of our country, of Europe and of the whole world,” Bassetti said.

He closed the message by saying “we accompany you with prayer.”

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