An Italian bishop who compared moves to give gay couples some rights to incest and child abuse is under police guard after he was sent a live bullet in the post.
The guard was put in place earlier this month after Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco’s cathedral was attacked by vandals.
At Sunday Mass security was stepped up with two bodyguards accompanying the Archbishop and plain clothes officers migling with the congregation.
The bullet was accompanied by a picture of the Archbishop defaced with a swastika. It was delivered to his office on Friday.
Earlier this month the slogan “Bagnasco shame” was painted on the entrance to the cathedral of St. Lawrence in Genoa.
Monsignor Bagnasco was appointed head of the Bishops Conference in March and is in charge of the Roman Catholic church campaign to block a new law that would allow unmarried couples, gay and straight, some legal protection.
The Archbishop’s comments have resulted in some of the heaviest criticism of the church in an ongoing row over the place of religion in the Italian state.
La Repubblica newspaper reported his comments at a meeting of Roman Catholic church employees:
“Why say no to forms of legally recognised co-habitation which create alternatives to the family? Why say no to incest?
“Why say no to the paedophile party?”
Sergio Lo Guidice, the president of gay rights group Arcigay, earlier condemned the act of vandalism, but has expressed his support for “the victims of the archbishop’s most offensive words on paedophilia and homosexual civil unions.”
Italy has been gripped by the conflict between traditionalists and progressives since Romano Prodi’s government unveiled proposals to recognise same-sex partnerships last February.
Members of Parliament have been strongly lobbied by the Catholic Church, with Pope Benedict XVI calling the proposals “anti-church and anti-family.”
While the bishops did not suggest disciplinary action against lawmakers who supported the government proposals, they did stress a “moral duty” to vote against the legislation.