FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2019, file photo, Italian Deputy-Premier Matteo Salvini kisses a rosary as Premier Giuseppe Conte addresses the Senate in Rome. For months now, Salvini, a divorced father of two children by two different women, has been kissing rosaries, invoking the Madonna and quoting St. John Paul II at political rallies in a bid to rally Italian Catholics behind his nationalist message. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia, File)

Italian populist mixes religious symbols with his politics

August 22, 2019 - 11:32 am

ROME (AP) — The brandishing of Catholic symbols by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has gone down as one of the most significant elements of his successful bid to topple Italy's government.

While right-wing populists in the U.S. and Europe have increasingly invoked their Christian roots to justify policies against Muslims and other migrants, Salvini's gestures and rhetoric have carried particular resonance, since they directly challenge those of Italy's other major leader: Pope Francis

Salvini's challenge to Francis' core message has not gone unnoticed by the Vatican or the Italian Catholic Church, although it remains to be seen whether it is resonating with rank-and-file Italians.

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