The Guardian reports that Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini to criticize the pope on the issue of migration. This occurred during an April 2016 meeting. In a few months, Bannon would become the head of Trump’s presidential campaign.
“Bannon advised Salvini himself that the actual pope is a sort of enemy. He suggested for sure to attack, frontally,” said a senior League insider.
Following the April meeting, Salvini began to criticize the pope more. He claimed that Vatican conservatives were on his side. In May 2016, Salvini tweeted: “The pope says migrants are not a danger. Whatever!”
After the pope asked for compassion towards migrants, Salvini tweeted on May 6, 2016: “Uncontrolled immigration, an organized and financed invasion, brings chaos and problems, not peace.”
Salvini announced last week that he wants to make an alliance of the European far right. He unveiled his “vision of Europe for the next 50 years” in Milan, descrining it as a new rightwing coalition for European parliamentary elections in May. The alliance unveiling came days after meeting Bannon in March.
Bannon and Salvini also met in Rome six months ago. Afterward, Mischaël Modrikamen, the managing director of the movement, tweeted that Italy’s deputy prime minister “is in!”
Bannon attacked the pope over his warnings of resurgent populist movements. “You can go around Europe and it’s [populism] catching fire and the pope is just dead wrong,” Bannon said.
After the September 2016 meeting between Salvini and Bannon, Salvini was photographed holding a T-shirt with the words: “Benedict is my pope” on it. This slogan refers to a claim that Francis is an illegitimate pope and his predecessor, Benedict XVI, is the true pontiff.
The League source said Salvini would have criticized the pope more, but he was constrained by his party, specifically Giancarlo Giorgetti, the deputy federal secretary of Lega Nord.
“[After the Bannon meeting] Salvini moved very tough and said: ‘We have to attack the Vatican, but the other guy said wait.’ Salvini thinks by himself and acts by himself ... so he started to act [for example, by appearing with the ‘Benedict is my Pope’ T-shirt],” said the source.
Bannon has been building opposition to Pope Francis with his Dignitatis Humane Institute. The institute is based in a monastery close to Rome. Bannon became a patron of the institute in January 2017. The honorary president of the institute is the ultra-conservative Cardinal Raymond Burke, who thinks that an organized network of homosexuals is spreading a “gay agenda” throughout the Vatican.
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