catacombsOnce upon a time … there was a Constitution, the Italian one, which stated, at its Article 19: “All citizens have the right to freely profess their religion in any form, individually or in combination, and to disseminate it in private or in public worship, provided that the… rites are not contrary to public morality.”
Once upon a time … but the Lombardy Regional Council must have forgotten it in last months, giving, with the typical bureaucratic zeal that characterizes the activities of the Italian State, full implementation to a Regional Law ( the 12/2005 ) for years rejected on the basis of its manifest impracticability.
What does this law say? To translate from “legal slang” is certainly not easy but, in essence, the provisions of  its “Title III – Rules for the construction of church buildings and equipment to religious services” can be summarized in the following three points:
1 ) Municipalities can contribute a percentage to the construction of places of worship for those religious associations recognized as such, which so request and which have a “widespread, organized and stable presence on the territory”;
2) no place of worship can be built outside of the areas given by the municipalities for the creation of places of worship or without the permission and contribute of the municipalities;
3) It is forbidden the use for the cult of any other place not specifically designed for cultic functions, if not through a formal change of the “intended use” of the place itself.
What does this mean?
In practice, if a religious community is not widespread, organized and stable on the territory (ie what happens to a plethora of “missions” of a large number of Denominations), it becomes impossible for it to keep its religious cults as it can’t build (given the financial opportunity to do so) a church or convert into church another building: a change of “intended use” is, according to security laws (not applied to most Catholic churches, those same churches that receive municipal aid), practically impossible!
Of course this applies, a fortiori, to those communities which, not having the funds neither to convert nor to build (something anyway impossible because of the criteria of “dissemination, organization and stability”) a place of worship, can no more rent halls for their functions.
Beyond the blatant violation of Article 19, there are a couple of problems with this law, promoted by the right wing xenophobic parties.
The first one is again related to the Italian Constitution, Article 20, which states, “the ecclesiastical nature and the purpose of religion or worship of an association or institution may not be a cause for special limitations under the law”. In fact, when any association of any other kind wishes to rent a room to meet, if this room is in conformity with the security requirements and the State commissioner is informed three days before the meeting, there are no problems, but this does not apply to a religious community that wants to perform a function and can’t do it just for the fact to be a religious community, in clear violation of the constitutional rule.
The second problem concerns the criteria of “widespread, organized and stable presence on the ground” that is patently illegal as the Italian Constitutional Court, judgment no. 925 of 1988, declared “no longer acceptable any kind of discrimination based only on the greater or lesser number of members of different faiths.”
But… who cares?
Is there a solution? Theoretically yes, but only theoretically .
Or, in fact, there should be private non-denominational places of worship to rent, which is in itself impossible as a non-denominational place of worship could, of course, in no way meet the criteria of “dissemination, organization and stability of a religious community”, or any municipality, in accordance with the Constitution, should have the foresight to build at least one of these non-denominational places of worship to allow (at controlled prices despite the obvious monopoly) Communities to rent them: we all know that municipalities will never do it without getting money from the state (and the state will never give the money in crisis times).
The result? The result is that in last months, in Lombardy, thanks to a law defined (and it is such a disgusting definition!) “Minarets destroyer”, already 24 communities of different Denominations have been left without a place of worship …
What a great result! Finally, the region that calls itself “the most European” of Italy, can now boast another first: it is the first Italian region to have reintroduced the catacombs!