Pope sends letter of support to squatters of Rome
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sun Feb 7 13:30:57 GMT 2016
Pope sends letter of support to Tarzan and squatters of Rome
Pope Francis responded with a pledge of warm
encouragement for occupation of buildings next to papal summer residence
Ferruccio Sansa and
Vulliamy - Saturday 17 October 2015 19.30 BSTLast
modified on Thursday 22 October 201514.30 BST
At one end of the correspondence: His Holiness,
Francis, Vicar of Christ, Pope of Rome. At the
other: Andrea Alzetta, an insurgent agitator from
a movement that squats in empty properties
known as Tarzan in Italian revolutionary circles.
In an exchange of letters that could only belong
to the transformed papacy of Jorge Mario
Bergoglio, Alzetta addresses the pontiff as my
dearest Pope Francis. His holiness replies with
a pledge of warm encouragement for the latters
occupation of scenic buildings and grounds right
next door to his papal summer residence
Their exchange comes as Francis is trying to
stave off a backlash from the churchs
conservatives over homosexuality and divorce.
Incredible! Alzetta said. Id never in my life
have thought Id write to the pope, and that hed
reply! However, nowadays who are we supposed to address ourselves to?
The unexpected correspondence has its origins in
an occupation in May of two buildings called La
tenuta Vaselli, set in beautiful gardens with a
view of the lake and hills of Frascati, a
kilometre from the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo.
The choice of location was no coincidence:
Alzettas group, Action Diritti in Movimento
(Action Rights on the Move), chose the site, he
says, as a statement and contribution before the
calendar of holy events starting on 8 December,
called the Jubilee of Mercy and entwining the Vatican with the city of Rome.
Scores of occupiers were spearheaded by Action
which has for years formed the kernel of Romes
hardline squatting movement: they entered the
grounds and stucco houses, apparently at the
invitation of the current owner of the house, a
descendant of the Vaselli family, to establish
what Alzetta calls a multicultural centre for
welcome reception of homeless people and
migrants. A model for the city, he said. They
remain there still among the cypresses and
pines in what Tarzan hailed down a loudspeaker,
as the crowds moved in, as the most beautiful
place in the world, surrounded by the rich, noble and powerful.
Among those noble and powerful neighbours was the
Pope, and Tarzan a former autonomist, member of
the Communist Refoundation party and now city
councillor with a new movement called Left
Ecology Liberty elected to try and get him on
side. The squatters befriended nuns stationed at
Castel Gandolfo, one of whom, Sister Damiana
Esposto, offered to act as courier of a missive.
The Italian language is famous for its elegant,
often stilted, formality when addressing people
in a letter, but Tarzan discards ostentatious
etiquette, beginning, on letter-headed paper
featuring a red star and bold black arrow: Carissimo Papa Francesco ...
In his letter, Alzetta writes how grateful the
squatters are for your dedication of a little
time to listen to us, and for the chance to
inform you of the conditions of several hundred
families in emergency accommodation, whom we
represent. He refers to the mafia capital
scandal in which crime syndicates exploited
immigrants and homeless families, and appeals to
your sensibility regarding the struggle of the
homeless, migrants and unemployed of the city
in hope of your kind reply.
Somewhat amazingly, Alzetta got a reply on
paper headed Segreteria di Stato, Dal Vaticano,
addressed to Sister Esposto and signed by
Monsignor Peter B Wells, assessor for general
affairs, on the popes behalf. Acknowledging
receipt of the letter, Wells says His holiness
the pontiff takes to heart that of which he has
been made aware, and sends word of paternal
understanding and firm encouragement, and assures
in his prayers he imparts from his heart
an apostolic benediction for Tarzans cause.
The pope will never cease to promote the values
of justice and solidarity
with organs which
champion the weakest sectors of society,
Francis ends by sending the comrades his deep
esteem. The occupation stands, now blessed;
homeless Romans and migrants have done up the
empty rooms and call them home; boys play table
tennis under the umbrella pines. This pope,
says Alzetta, is one of the few who stands
without hesitation on the side of the last,
whos raised the matter of homeless migrants; who
understands the importance of a welcome reception.
True, part of the church is still connected to
power, money and business, and I want nothing to
do with that. But this pope stands with the
Last. And now we communists will work with
priests and parishioners. Well be sending the
children of the homeless to play football with priests!
* This article was amended on 22 October 2015
to clarify the ownership of La tenuta Vaselli.
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