Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith: Is a showdown between the Vatican and Rome’s new mayor imminent?

(Catholic Herald) This Monday morning, the Vatican is getting used to the idea of a new Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, a member of the protest Five Star Movement, founded seven years ago by the Italian comedian Beppe Grillo.

Miss Raggi was elected in the run off with two-thirds of the votes, which represents a stunning victory. In fact the figures are not so impressive. The Five Star movement held an online primary, which she won, gaining 1,764 votes out of a total of 3,862 votes cast.

In the first round of voting for the mayoral election she gained 35 per cent of the votes cast, and in the final run off, she secured two-thirds, which amounted to 770,564 votes. Three quarters of a million votes sounds a lot, but Rome’s population is estimated at 4.3 million.

Miss Raggi’s background is interesting. She is youngish and new to politics, like many of the grillini (as they are called). Yet she is a qualified lawyer, daughter of a lawyer, and worked for Cesare Previti, who was the lawyer of none other than Silvio Berlusconi. This surely undermines her claim to be an insurgent and an outsider. Like a lot of Romans, she describes herself as a Catholic, though not a practising one.

As for Miss Raggi’s programme of government, that is reassuringly traditional. She aims to improve Rome’s public transport network, which, as many visitors will attest, is one of the least developed in Europe. She also wants to improve rubbish collection, and deal with corruption. All these are praiseworthy aims. The only truly innovative thing that Miss Raggi has mentioned so far is her intention to pursue the Vatican for what is alleged to be some 250 to 400 million euros in unpaid taxes. Those figures are rather imprecise, but according to an interview with the Guardian: “If elected, one of Raggi’s objectives would be to claim between €250m and €400m in allegedly unpaid taxes on the Vatican’s real estate holdings and other assets, which she claims have never been collected by the city’s administration for fear of taking on the church.” [More]


Catholic Herald