Social media users have joined Catholic and Jewish leaders in condemning an ‘unacceptable’ funeral display in which a Nazi flag was draped across the coffin.
About two dozen people were seen gathered outside the church in Rome following the death of Alessia Augello, a 44-year-old former militant of the extreme right-wing group Forza Nuova, which reportedly believes in banning abortion, halting immigration and scrapping laws that punish incitement to hatred.
Photos and videos from the event show mourners giving a fascist salute with their right arms and shouting ‘presente!’ as the swastika-covered coffin emerged from the building.
The scene was widely criticised online as well as being condemned in a statement released by the vicariate of Rome, who made clear neither the parish priest nor the priest who conducted the funeral at the St. Lucia church had been aware of how the mourners were going to honour the death upon leaving the building.
The statement cited by Associated Press described the Nazi flag as ‘a horrendous symbol irreconcilable with Christianity’ and added: ‘This ideological and violent exploitation, especially following an act of worship near a sacred place, remains serious, offensive and unacceptable for the church community of Rome and for all people of good will in our city.’
Parish priest Alessandro Zenobbi was quoted in the statement as distancing both himself and the church from ‘every word, gesture and symbol used outside the church, which are attributed to extremist ideologies far from the message of the gospel of Christ’.
The actions after the funeral were further slammed by Rome’s Jewish community, who said it was ‘unacceptable that a flag with a swastika can still be shown in public in this day and age, especially in a city that saw the deportation of its Jews by the Nazis and their fascist collaborators.’
In its statement, the Jewish community added that the incident was ‘even more outrageous because it took place in front of a church’.
Augello’s aunt, Stefania Vesica, shared a statement on Facebook following the funeral in which she claimed Augello would not have approved of the use of Nazi signs.
Per the Mail Online, she wrote:
We are mourning the loss of our beloved Alessia. We totally dissociate ourselves from the events that took place outside the Church, of which we were not aware of and that neither Alessia would have shared nor appreciated in any way.
We would never have allowed or authorised what happened there. We ask that journalists and everyone else, given the gravity of our loss, to respect our pain and the name of Alessia Augello.
Police have said the events are under investigation as a possible hate crime.
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