Cardinal Bagnasco may sound like a conspiracy theorist, but he raises pertinent questions over the persecution of Christians

Cardinal Bagnasco has given an interview to an Italian television station in which he has had some interesting things to say about the plight of the Christians in the Middle East. One can read a report of the Cardinal’s words, in Italian, here. The Cardinal is Archbishop of Genoa, and, perhaps more importantly, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference. He has a reputation of being a fearless and outspoken proponent of Church teachings, and not frightened of being thought politically incorrect. 

Here’s my translation of what he said…

We must raise up in every way possible a wide mobilisation, not just international but global. This would consist in a true, effective and public support for all moderate Muslims who wish to counter this savagery which is simply unacceptable for civility. Keeping quiet about the persecution of religious minorities and Christians in particular is utterly wrong. It is wrong because it undermines the culture of human rights which the West frequently declaims so loudly. This guilty silence comes from fear and vested interests.

The report indicates that the Cardinal thinks that the silence of the West is underpinned by economic vested interests and gli affari, that is ‘big business’.

This might be dismissed as just another Italian cleric sounding off, and sound perilously close to one of the many conspiracy theories that are beloved of the Italian media. In a way, it is. The Cardinal is effectively indulging in a favoured Italian pastime: la dietrologia (“behindology”), that is, the search for the facts behind the facts.

The fact is that no one is doing much for the Christians of the Middle East: what facts can explain this fact? The first fact is fear – the fear, one assumes, of seeming politically incorrect or racist, or making things worse. The second fact is economic: we cannot, one assumes, afford to offend Saudi Arabia, on whom we depend for oil.

The Cardinal may be right on both counts. His solution to the problem is the same as Mr Cameron’s: we must mobilise moderate Muslims against the radicals of ISIS and similar groups. As a strategy this has had very little success so far, though we should not discount the interventions of people like General Al-Sisi. 

About one thing the Cardinal is absolutely right: it is completely hypocritical of the West to talk of human rights so loudly at home and not to stick up for the human rights of Christians in the Middle East. Cardinal Bagnasco seems to be a pretty straight talking sort of guy. For that we should be grateful. We could do with a few more like him.