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Italy: Populists Block Muslim Group’s Bid to Turn Chapel into Mosque

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - DECEMBER 05: A homelss street child prays at an Orthodox church December 5, 2006 in Bucharest, Romania. Romania, a country of over 21 million people that is set to join the European Union on the first of the year, still struggles with widespread poverty. Approximately 25% of …
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Lombardy’s populist League-led local government has blocked plans to turn an old chapel into a mosque after an Islamic group outbid Christians at the auction of a church in Bergamo, northern Italy.

The region’s president, Attilio Fontana, announced at the weekend that the council had utilised a 2004 law which allows regional government to halt a sale in the name of safeguarding cultural sites.

According to local media, the auction for the former hospital chapel was won by the Muslim Association of Bergamo which sought to turn the building into another mosque in the city after outbidding the Romanian Orthodox Church, which had used the site for worship since 2015.

Lombardy “will exercise our right of preemption and there will be no room for an appeal” regarding the sale of the church, said Fontana, stating that the council intends to “protect” Christianity in Italy.

“I would never have put a church up for sale and I am amazed that the hospital management did not understand how sensitive this issue was,” the League politician said.

“I have already contacted Father Gheorghe Valescu, head of the Romanian Orthodox community in Bergamo, to reassure him and illustrate the actions that are being taken to ensure the community does not lose their place of worship,” added Fontana.

League leader Matteo Salvini, who has served as Italian Interior Minister since June, had vowed ahead of national elections earlier this year his party would “put a stop to any irregular or abusive Islamic presence in Italy”, warning that the religion represents a “danger” to the Mediterranean nation, which fought off countless invasions and attacks from the Muslim world during the past two millennia, including the centuries-long capture of Sicily.

“Centuries of history are at risk of disappearing if Islamisation, which has been underestimated until now, finally wins,” the populist Italian said in a statement in January.

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