Monday, 1 September 2014

of communions and not belonging

Communion…
Community…
You hear these words so often, over and over, in a Catholic country such as Italy that you could easily be fooled into believing they hold some true meanings.
Most of the time, however, they feel like nothing but a clutter of vowels and consonants.
It's so easy to be tempted to dismiss it all as me being over-sensitive about it, but then I remind myself that dismissing facts and feelings is the best way to bury my head in the sands.
It happened when visiting the cathedral of Trieste some weeks ago. It’s a magnificent church, yet the thing I remember the most is this panel.



The thing is that the English sentence is not the exact equivalent of the Italian one. The Italian sentence reads: “Who has faith, worship. Who doesn't have such gift pass by with respect and reverence”.

Given that the vast majority of Italians are Catholics (well, they’re baptized and gets married in the church) and I don’t belong to the vast majority, it’s obvious I’m a gift less one.
But with so few people outside Italy speaking my language, I wonder why was it necessary to word the request for respect of a sacred space in such a arrogant way. The tone that transpire for that "Who doesn't have such gift" is closer to a "if you're so unfortunate to not have such a gift, oh you miserable inferior being" than anything.

Do you really need your sense of belonging to a community to be enhanced by reminding people out of it that they don’t belong?
Do you feel more part of it by marking over and over something you supposedly have and others don’t?
Who knows, it probably does work, if you’re inside that community. But I don’t belong to that communion of people and I felt incredibly irritated by it. Sure, there are far worse thing to worry and get upset about it, yet this small event was enough to make me stop: my visit of the church was truly spoiled by it, because while I was admiring the mosaics on the rooftop, I was still thinking about that sign.

It seems there was a need to remark you the need to respect this place of worship: yet who ever placed the sign has obviously forgot most of the people that are so unrespectful to the churches during their visits, using flash to take photos, answering the phones etc, are catholic themselves.

I think it’s mainly due to the fact yes, this is a small event, but it’s not the first and it won’t be the last.
I’ve lived through so many of these small little acts of discrimination (should, can I call them so?), yet I haven’t grew any immunity against them.
I still feel irritated by what I perceive as a conceited act of  self-righteousness and arrogane, an ill-disguised sense of superiority applied on me, as an atheist, by people that leave everyday life not following the advice and words of Vatican yet thinking of themselves standing on a superior moral ground.
I 'm pained by the fact I have to endure people deeming themselves as "tolerant" to other people religious beliefs (or lack of them) yet being effectively the complete opposite on every day life. And it seems there is no way to make them understand what they're doing is not so "christian", if we consider as "christian" the basics teaching of Christ and not the structure of power built up in the centuries by different churches. The most common reply you will hear when you complain (and I can tell it by experience) is "Oh, but we allow them freedoms and rights they would never have in their countries". They don't specify who the "them" are, but it includes anybody who is not exactly 100% like them, i.e. white, Italian and catholic, but by lacking just one of these factor is enough to endure some sort of discrimination.

On the good side, year after year, I met more and more people like me, in Italy: so while I'm still annoyed by events and sentences like the one I met in Trieste, I also hold on to the knowledge there are people out there that not only use the word "communion", but act upon it. I just have to remind myself about it, no matter how hard and tiring it can be.

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