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Pro-family demonstrators at a "Standing Sentinels" rally.

Even before it has passed, Italy's proposed “anti-homophobia” bill is harming the freedom to disagree with the LGBT agenda, according to a prominent Italian Catholic bishop, who blasted this weekend’s violence against pro-family demonstrators as undemocratic.

Archbishop Luigi Negri, of the diocese of Ferrara, issued a statement this week saying that the attacks this weekend against peaceful, silent demonstrators by homosexuals, anarchists, and Communist agitators is part of a five-decade long movement of the Left towards greater power and shutting down all opposition.

In his statement, Archbishop Negri said that the clashes demonstrate clearly that the “margins for freedom” are being “progressively reduced in our country, contrary to the constitutional provisions that places personal liberty as social foundation of the entire democratic system.”

“It is a sad story but widely anticipated,” Archbishop Negri said. “For over 50 years these thugs who beat others, accusing them of being fascists, have been seen in front of me in all areas in which my professional life and ministry have placed me, especially schools and universities.”

Last weekend an estimated 10,000 people of all ages, in 100 Italian cities and towns, participated in silent, peaceful demonstrations against proposed “anti-homophobia” legislation that they fear is a direct attack on freedom of speech and religion. 

The groups of Sentinelle in Piede (Standing Sentinels) gathered simultaneously across the country in groups of a few hundred, including children, and stood in rows in public squares, silently reading. In many towns they were met by mobs of screaming, spitting, threatening agitators, some of whom let off smoke bombs and threw eggs.

In one case police neglected to attend and at least two participants, a priest and a young woman, were reportedly injured and had to be taken to hospital. In one town, the entire group had to be escorted under police guard to a different location, though protesters followed and continued the attack.

Archbishop Negri continued, saying, “Many from [society’s] institutions should reflect on this degradation that sees an increasing difficulty for freedom to be practiced throughout the country.”

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“And the same must be said of certain organs of the press,” he added, “because this news was clearly and deliberately removed by many [media outlets]. These same outlets that are saturated with information on football matches and details about the effusions of celebrities and politics.”

The archbishop’s statement called for Catholics to “remain steadfast in their commitment to the principles of the social doctrine of the Church” demonstrating how “their love for freedom” can become “labor, pain and suffering.” 

On Monday, Eugenia Roccella, a parliamentarian of the New Centre Right party, also took the media to task for its bias, saying the reports of the incidents were “incredible” because of the way depicted it as a “clash” between the Sentinels and the counter-protesters.

“You cannot speak of a ‘clash’ when the person who is manifesting quietly, peacefully, simply standing and reading a book, as the Sentinels do, is threatened, cornered, attacked with insults and violence and forced, out of fear, to leave the square, escorted by police,” she said in a statement.

Roccella added, “It is a shameful attack, moreover, planned and organized, as was done in the same way in all of Italy, against unarmed people who have tried to carry out their peaceful demonstration.”

A former journalist who converted from radical feminism to Catholicism before serving as Italy’s Health Minister in a previous government, Roccella said that the attacks reveal the true face of the homosexual movement as a tool of Italy’s extreme political Left.

“The Left, which is so often the self-proclaimed standard bearer of the law for gay marriage, throws the mask and defends the absolute lawlessness,” she said.

She warned against the rise of those who, “in order to reach the target of gay marriage, are willing to trample on the Constitution, the laws and the centrality of the Italian Parliament.”

Roccella added that she has presented a formal question to the government on the incidents, saying that while the annual “Gay Pride” parades openly mock the pope and religion, “scenes offensive to believers” that “we have reached a level of arrogance and intolerance” in which there is no tolerance for opposition.

“If today we do not tolerate even those who, quietly, manifest their ideas, what will happen with a law such as [the Scalfarotto] homophobia [bill] in the Senate?” she asked.

A statement from Camillo Villagran, the head of LGBTQ della Rete della Conoscenza Network of Knowledge) accused the Sentinels of “incitement to hatred.”

“Hate speech is not free speech,” Villagran said to ANSA. “We protest the Standing Sentinels because they claim to sell as something scientific their fear and hatred of gay, lesbian, and transgender people.”

But Valentina Castaldini, a town councilor in Due Torri who participated in the local Sentinels demonstration, replied to his accusation, saying, “Not a chance…These meetings are not a protest but an intelligent and silent call to wake up people’s brains that are a bit asleep.

“I was on the streets with my book, Lord of the World by [Msgr] Robert [Hugh] Benson, along with 80 other people. Then came the screams, eggs and a bottle that fell within thirty inches of a six year old girl,” Castaldini related to

Some editorials have appeared through the week asking similar questions about freedom for peaceful people to express their ideas in public. In Libero, Mario Giordano, re-quoted by, wrote, “The rule in Italy is this: if you go down to the streets for battle, you have the green light to do whatever you want. If you go down to the streets as a peaceful citizen with a book in hand, you have to move away.”

He said the fact that the Sentinels “demonstrate” by standing still and silently reading a book, is something their opponents cannot understand or endure. “’How can we allow this?’ ‘Are there words that we are forbidden to pronounce? Insults? Threats? Blasphemies? Chants against the police? Verbal abuse? But no: the things that you can not say they are ‘mom’ and ‘dad.’”