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Climate activists disrupt archbishop’s Mass in Turin

Turin Cathedral. / Credit: Eccekevin |Wikipedia|CC BY-SA 4.0

CNA Staff, Dec 4, 2023 / 14:30 pm (CNA).

Climate activists in Italy over the weekend disrupted a Mass celebrated by Turin Archbishop Roberto Repole, with the demonstrators reading from Pope Francis’ works on the environment during the incident. 

Activists with the climate group Extinction Rebellion appeared at the Turin Cathedral on Sunday during the archbishop’s Mass there, according to the Italian newspaper la Republicca.

The protesters “interrupted the Mass that Archbishop Roberto Repole was celebrating to read passages from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’” as well as his apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum. Both of those documents address climate change and what Pope Francis sees as humankind’s responsibility as stewards of God’s creation.

The incident reportedly took place “in the moments before the homily,” the paper said, in which “activists stood up one at a time and read aloud the two writings.”

Video of the incident on YouTube showed the demonstrators reading from the pope’s documents, at one point while surrounded by the archbishop and two other clergy. 

The paper said the demonstrators quoted in part from Laudato Si’ by repeating Francis’ call for “a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”

A spokesman for Extinction Rebellion told CNA on Monday that the organization “[does] not have a headquarters nor do we have a central decision-making body. Groups decide for themselves what actions they will take depending very much on local circumstances.”

“As groups do not have to seek ‘permission’ to stage protests, very often we do not know what actions are taken globally,” the spokesman said. 

In a statement on its website, the Italian chapter of the group said the activists “briefly interrupted the Mass in the Duomo” reading passages from the documents “to bring the attention of the faithful to the words of the pontiff on the climate crisis.” 

The Archdiocese of Turin did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the incident. In a statement after the incident, Repole said he had “great esteem for those who mobilize for the defense of creation and accept the appeals of Pope Francis” and that he “appreciate[d] the commitment in this sense of the activists of Extinction Rebellion.” 

But “I am sorry that they decided to take the floor in the Duomo without first wanting to talk to me and ask if they could intervene,” he said. 

“I would have replied that at Mass we often pray for peace and for the preservation of creation, but the Eucharistic celebration is not a suitable time to host public interventions,” he said. 

“I initially let the activists speak; then I asked them to end because Mass is a moment of prayer and as such it must be respected, also and above all by those who declare that they want to work with respect for all,” the archbishop said.

Extinction Rebellion describes itself as “a decentralized, international, and politically nonpartisan movement” that uses “nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience” to “persuade governments to act justly on the climate and ecological emergency.”

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