Praying for Italy

Jun 14, 2024 | Flashpoints, PRAY, Prayer Focus for the Nations, READ, World Watch

Italy has long been dear to my heart. It has a long and complex history, and has exercised enormous influence in the world, whether through the edicts of its empire-building Caesars, or the epistle that Paul wrote to its Kingdom-of-God-seeking believers. That seed of influence remains, and is even now finding a place in the nations through its Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, who fought a hard campaign in the recent elections, taking a considerable risk by making it a referendum on her own record as Prime Minister. In the outcome, her party, the right-wing Brothers of Italy, won a decisive victory.

Italy is not without its troubles. The birth rate is falling, and Northern Italy has been suffering terrible floods recently, whilst the south of the country has endured drought and heatwaves – not to mention 150 strong tremor quakes in the region round Naples. I am reminded of the remarkable prophecy of 1911, which warned of such things.

Lord, have mercy and in and through all this shaking, and awaken the Italian people to their real need for You: to place their trust in the living God rather than in the God of their history.

The importance of remembering

My recent trip to Italy brought to mind a theme I have often drawn attention to: the importance of remembering our national history. If this is a subject that interests you as far as Italian history and politics are concerned, then do read on. But if that is not for you, please do feel free to skip to the prayer links at the end!

During the Second World War, well over 20,000 Italians died at the hands of German executioners and their Fascist co-workers. In Lucca, where I was staying, the past is literally all around one; the city was by no means exempt from the turmoil. Many of the great squares and buildings in this beautiful city saw members of the Italian Resistance being brutally tortured and executed. How does a nation begin to heal after such scars have been inflicted?

A year on from the end of the war, in June 1946, a major amnesty was passed, commuting death sentences, reducing prison terms and pardoning both fascists and partisans. Its aim was to help the shattered nation to recover toward unity. In practice, the amnesty greatly favoured Fascists and collaborators, whilst leaving left imprisoned partisans to be treated as common criminals.

Many commentators in fact consider the amnesty to be responsible of a widespread ‘amnesia’ amongst Italians, as if the civil war of those years were not so bad after all, and the horrors forgettable. It is only comparatively recently that some of the stories have emerged, and various heroes of the Resistance have been honoured. Even now, neo-Fascist powers remain a potent force in the nation, following Berlusconi’s long reign, which relied heavily on their support.

Giorgia Meloni

I believe that it is important to keep Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s Prime Minister since October 2022, in our prayers. Despite her relative youth and inexperience – and her very right-wing politics that led many to suppose she would take an anti-EU stance – Meloni has defied expectations and demonstrated a surprisingly dynamic savoir-faire on the international front. She is rapidly gaining influence in Brussels, with many considering her such an important figure (and indeed perhaps the least electorally vulnerable of them all at the moment) that she looks set to play the role of kingmaker in the new European Parliament. She is currently being courted by both Ursula von der Lyen from the centrist parties, and by Marine le Pen on the right.

Meloni chaired the G7 Council of Ministers meeting for the first time recently in Japan, and had a useful time with President Macron. This was important ‘repair work,’ as his Foreign Minister had previously delivered a stinging rebuke to her for not being willing to take in more migrants. Relationships with the German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz have meanwhile been far more frosty than is good for European unity.

This article offers some useful background information on Meloni’s time in Japan, but do please excuse the somewhat confusing translation: the equivalent of Google Translate having a seriously off day! Note that the ‘international actors’ in Africa is a reference to the huge efforts of Russia and China to exert a central influence on that continent. (Search for ‘Russian influence in Africa,’ and your browser will come up with a lot of information on this score.)

Meloni is increasingly aware of her influence. Public adulation can be hard to resist, and the temptation to use it to further one’s own agenda and profile correspondingly harder. Back home in Italy, she is being charged with exercising ‘suffocating control’ over media outlets – so much so that journalists from RAI (the Italian equivalent of the BBC) have responded with five days of strike action. Some are now accusing her of wanting to take over state media, fearing that she might be following in Berlusconi’s footsteps, and have  compared their position to that of Hungarian journalists trying to operate under the right-wing control of Viktor Orban.*

Adlopting a hard-line stance on migration, Meloni has struck a ‘Rwanda style’ deal with Tirana in Albania to take 3,000 people from August this year. Migration is a source of massive concern to many in Italy, with some commentators reckoning that very nearly 70% of people now believing the conspiracy theory that the migrant crisis is being deliberately orchestrated in order to do away with white people. Pray that Giorgia Meloni does not get caught up in the swirl of these theories – or indeed become overly influenced in any unwise or dangerous direction. She is currently riding high in the polls, but is surrounded by powerful forces at home that she needs wisdom to handle, and quite possibly protection from.

Meloni has been solicitously courting the Trump base, so that she will be in pole position to become a favourite in any new Trump administration. She has been actively looking for ways to make links between her own Brothers of Italy party and the MAGA Republicans.

When it comes to Ukraine, Meloni has consistently denounced Russia’s invasion, unlike certain other European leaders, as well as her own immediate predecessors. At the same time she shares the reserve of those who do not want to risk any direct confrontation with Moscow. She even succeeded in launching a charm offensive to convince the hardline Hungarian Prime Minister to end his blockade of financial aid from Europe. Read more.

Look, listen and pray for Italy!

Just a few yards from where I was staying in Lucca, I came across this statue of the virtuoso violinist composer, Francesco Geminiani. If you look closely, you can see his violin. [Image 13]. Some years ago we recorded two pieces of his music, despite a thunderstorm reverberating around the Cotswolds, where we were recording. If you listen closely, you can hear rolls of thunder at the end of this recording, in which Shirley Richards leads three violinists bravely scaling the heights of Mt Geminiani!.

I hope these prayers – which, though ten years old, remain deeply relevant will inspire your own prayers for Italy. Enjoy the lovely video that Sally put together. I sent these two prayers to one new Italian friend, who replied,

‘Beautiful gift. Thank you very much indeed. I was shivering, and my heart was beating. Amazing the way Ruach blows. Thank you for having Italy among the countries you pray for. I’m at work now but my day started beautifully. Thank you.’ Another simply replied: ‘Bellissimo!’

* Remembering the huge control that Berlusconi exercised over national news and television outlets, it is concerning to discover that Italy has recently dropped to 46th place in Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s latest World Press Freedom Index. Their report cited ‘Giorgia Meloni’s Italy’ as an example of political groups ‘orchestrating the takeover of the media ecosystem . . . where a member of the ruling parliamentary coalition (meaning Meloni herself) is trying to acquire the second biggest news agency (AGI).’

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