The priest of the Diocese of Belluno-Feltre wrote an open letter to the Italian bishops, questioning their willingness to protect religious freedom from state power.
“For a year and a half now, the vast majority of the Italian Catholic faithful have been disconcerted and scandalized by your incomprehensible silence, by your lack of ability to indicate the path of faith,” Pellegrini wrote in September.
"You seem, for all intents and purposes, salt that has lost its flavor and, as Christ says, ‘is good only to be thrown away and trampled on by men.’ You have yielded to almost everything that the Italian government has asked of you and continues to suggest and you have transformed the Church from a divine reality into a society manipulated by the government.”
The priest, who is a champion to the Trieste dockers, has criticized Pope Francis for promoting vaccination and regards Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the controversial former apostolic nuncio to the United States who is also an outspoken critic of vaccine mandates, as a “hero.”
Italian media reported that the country’s Catholic bishops took aim at No Vax protesters in their message for Italy’s Day for Life, issued on Nov. 17.
They praised Italians’ response to the pandemic, but said that “there were also manifestations of selfishness, indifference, and irresponsibility, often characterized by a misunderstood affirmation of freedom and a distorted conception of rights.”
“Very often, these were understandably frightened and confused people who were essentially also victims of the pandemic,” they wrote.
“In other cases, however, these behaviors and speeches expressed a vision of the human person and social relations that was far removed from the Gospel and the spirit of the [Italian] constitution.”
The Vatican’s doctrinal office said in December 2020 that it is “morally acceptable” to receive COVID-19 vaccines produced using cell lines from aborted fetuses when no alternative is available.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith also said that vaccination “must be voluntary,” while noting that those who refuse to receive vaccines produced with cell lines from aborted fetuses for reasons of conscience “must do their utmost to avoid … becoming vehicles for the transmission of the infectious agent.”
Pope Francis called vaccinations an “act of love” in a public service announcement issued in collaboration with the Ad Council in August.
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He said: “Getting the vaccines that are authorized by the respective authorities is an act of love. I pray to God that each one of us can make his or her own small gesture of love, no matter how small, love is always grand.”
The pope was asked about the sharp differences among Christians over vaccines during an in-flight press conference as he returned from Slovakia to Rome in September.
He said that he did not know how to explain the opposition to COVID-19 vaccines.
“Some say it comes from the diversity of where the vaccines come from, which are not sufficiently tested and they are afraid. We must clarify and speak with serenity about this,” he said.
“In the Vatican, everyone is vaccinated except a small group which they are studying how to help.”
The Pontifical Swiss Guard, charged with protecting the pope, has required all 135 of its guards to get a COVID-19 vaccine. It emerged in October that three Swiss Guards had quit after refusing to comply with the requirement.