A close collaborator of Pope Francis said this week that the Vatican would never give a papal blessing to Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, comparing him to an abortion clinic and Venezuelan dictators.
The papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, responsible for distributing charitable gifts on behalf of Pope Francis, said that parchments conveying the pope’s blessings can be requested for religious occasions such as first communions, confirmations, weddings, and anniversaries, but they cannot be given to people if this would produce scandal.
“But we do not give these to everyone,” Krajewski told the Italian daily Il Messaggero. “Could we ever give one, just as an example, to a hospital where abortions take place? Or can we give one to certain characters in Venezuela who are asking us for one? No, certainly not.”
“As another example, if Salvini asked us for one, we would deny it,” the cardinal said.
According to Il Messaggero, the reason the Vatican would refuse Salvini, a Catholic, a request for a papal blessing is his tough policies to rein in illegal immigration just as the Vatican is pushing for greater openness to migrants.
The newspaper reported that a different cardinal told Salvini several months ago that he would “never receive a papal audience” if he did not modify the policy of closed ports.
At the heart of Italy’s migrant crisis in 2016, Matteo Renzi, who was prime minister at the time, warned that Italy could not survive another year of mass immigration like the prior one, which saw more than 155,000 migrants enter Italy unchecked.
“Either we block the influx by 2017 or Italy will not handle another year like the past year,” Renzi announced on national television.
Despite his recognition of the gravity of the problem, Renzi insisted that he could do nothing to stem the tide of migrants without the approval of the European Union.
When running for office in 2018, Salvini said that Italy is a sovereign nation and must defend its own borders, whether or not the E.U. agrees, a stance that has made him immensely popular with the Italian people.
In his interview this week, Krajewski put forward further examples of people who are ineligible for a papal blessing because of their scandalous and anti-evangelical behavior.
“Today a bishop came and asked for [a blessing] for a country’s secret police since he was the chaplain, but it cannot be done,” the cardinal said. “And what if a factory owner who doesn’t pay his workers asked us?”
Krajewski did say, however, that if Salvini were getting married and asked for the pope’s blessing, the Vatican would consider it.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome