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Italy would not be Italy if it were not reflecting faithfully the divisions that have brought turmoil to the leadership of the Catholic church. While on Saturday the Vatican was revealing that conservative bishops had blocked even a distinctly guarded welcome to “men and women of homosexual tendencies”, 16 gay couples whose marriages abroad had just been formally registered by the mayor of Rome were being hustled out through a back exit of city hall to avoid a clash with protesters.
Pope Francis and Italy’s centre-left prime minister, Matteo Renzi, are following remarkably similar paths. Just as the Argentinian pontiff is striving to close the gap between his church’s doctrine and the realities of modern life, so Renzi is striving to update the laws of a country where attitudes have changed rapidly.
In 2012, an extensive government survey found sharp contrasts among Italians where homosexuality was concerned. A quarter of the respondents regarded it as an illness. Half agreed that the best thing for gay people was “not to tell others”. Yet almost two-thirds felt homosexuals in partnerships should have the same rights as married couples. A poll this month suggested a majority of Italians now favoured the introduction of gay marriage.
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