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Italian priest calls earthquakes 'divine punishment' for gay unions

A firefighter stands in front of the destroyed Basilica of St Benedict in the historic centre of Norcia, central Italy on October 31, 2016, a day after a 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit the region
Alberto Pizzoli (AFP)
Vatican issues rebuke, but priest refuses to back down; Italy legalized same-sex unions last month

An Italian priest angered the Vatican after saying that the recent earthquakes that have shaken the country, killing hundreds and leaving tens of thousands homeless, were "divine punishment" for gay civil unions.

Father Giovanni Cavalcoli, a theologian known for his hard-line views, made the comments on October 30, the day central Italy was struck by a 6.6-magnitude quake -- the most powerful to hit the country in 36 years -- according to Italian media.

It was the third major quake in the same region in just over two months.

Cavalcoli said on Radio Maria that the seismic shocks were "divine punishment" for "the offense to the family and the dignity of marriage, in particular through civil unions."

Italy became western Europe's last country to recognize same-sex relationships when it passed legislation last month permitting civil unions.

The radio station distanced itself from his views and late Friday the Vatican issued a stinging rebuke, saying the idea of a vengeful God was "a pagan vision" dating from "the pre-Christian era."

Archbishop Angelo Becciu, number two in the Vatican's powerful Secretariat of State, said Cavalcoli's comments were "offensive to believers and disgraceful for non-believers", in remarks reported by Italian media.

Becciu asked for forgiveness from quake victims and reminded them they had the "solidarity and support" of Pope Francis.

But Cavalcoli has refused to back down, insisting to another radio station that earthquakes are indeed caused by "the sins of man" and telling the Vatican to "read their catechism."

The Italian clergy has caused consternation for the church before, the UK's Guardian daily noted.

Last month a priest was suspended after saying on live TV that he “understands pedophilia” and that “children often seek affection.”

In 2012, another priest issued a Christmas message that said women killed by men had provoked the violence by wearing "filthy clothes" and serving "cold suppers," adding: " They should do a self-examination and think: did we ask for it?”

(Staff with AFP)

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