A priest in northern Italy who had announced plans to bless rifles to celebrate the opening of hunting season has been forced to backtrack and apologise after a social media backlash against the idea of appearing to sanctify weapons. Source: Crux.
The controversy arose after flyers went up in the Avaglio neighbourhood of the small town of Marliana, located in Italy’s northern region of Tuscany, announcing a special rite at the parish of St Michael Archangel on Sunday.
“Opening of the 2023-2024 hunting season. Blessing of rifles at the end of the Holy Mass at 9am in the square outside the church,” the announcement read.
Comments on Italian social media channels swiftly ensued, many of them critical.
“This flies in the face of Laudato Si’,” one post read, referring to Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on care of creation. Another said, “The blessing of rifles smacks of times gone by … times we would prefer to leave behind, in Marliana like everywhere else.”
As the controversy mounted, the Diocese of Pistoia, where Marliana is located, issued a statement containing an apology from the priest, Fr Alessio Biagioni.
“I deeply regret the reactions generated by the initiative of the blessing scheduled for the end of the celebration for September 3 for the beginning of the hunting season,” Fr Biagioni said in the statement.
“The expression used, ‘blessing rifles,’ without doubt was a mistaken synthesis which, in some ways, seemed to sanctify an instrument of death,” Biagioni said. “I apologise again for the disturbance this initiative has caused, which created a visibility that was neither anticipated nor desired.”
The Tuscany region of Italy is considered a centre of the country’s hunting activities, with the season generally running from September to February, and until March for migratory birds.