On Sunday morning, a group of young Muslim immigrants interrupted a Catholic procession in honor of the Virgin Mary with verbal insults, shouting, and threats as the group passed in front of the Islamic Cultural Center in Conselice, a small town in lower Romagna.
In predominantly Catholic Italy, the month of May is dedicated to the traditional processions carrying a statue or image of the Madonna, usually accompanied by the singing of hymns and praying of the rosary.
The Marian procession is a tradition in Conselice, and every year, the faithful gather at the Piazza Foresti and then proceed along a number of streets including the Via Dante Alighieri, which also passes in front of the Islamic Cultural Center. On Sunday, after the 9:30 a.m. Mass, a group of 100 faithful, including several small children preparing to receive their first Holy Communion, began the procession as usual.
Apparently understanding the procession to be a provocation, a group of Muslim youth from the Islamic Center began hurling verbal abuse and threats at the passing procession.
According to an eyewitness, “During the slow procession of the sacred image, some kids on the ground floor of the building of the headquarters of the Attadamun Islamic Cultural Center began shouting a kind of chorus like ‘Get out of here’ and ‘Go away from here.’”
The participants, especially the children, were reportedly stunned and confused; they halted the procession before regrouping and hurrying past the Center.
After receiving complaints from members of St. Martin’s parish, the mayor of Conselice, Paola Pula, met with representatives of the Attadamun Islamic Cultural Center on Tuesday morning.
Following the meeting, the Islamic Center prepared a formal letter of apology and delivered one copy to the mayor and another to the members of the parish.
In a statement, the mayor said that “the incident, even if it concerns the behavior of minors, is intolerable and must not be underestimated.” She also said the youth involved have been reprimanded by representatives of the center.
“We reaffirm our commitment to respect all sensibilities and religious affiliations,” she said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.