Use of Nazi flag at funeral sparks outrage in Rome | World

Neo-Nazi group covers ex-member's coffin with swastika in Rome, Italy
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Neo-Nazi group covers ex-member’s coffin with swastika in Rome, Italy

Italian Catholic and Jewish leaders condemned an episode on Tuesday in which right-wing extremists placed a swastika flag on a coffin outside a church after a religious funeral and gave the Nazi salute.

The Archdiocese of Rome said in a statement that priests at Saint Lucia parish in a central district of Rome, including the one leading the funeral rite, had no idea what would happen outside the church on Monday.

Images published on the internet showed the coffin with the body of Alessia Augello, a former member of the extreme right-wing group Força Nova, covered by the flag.

The diocese’s statement described the flag as a “horrendous symbol that cannot be reconciled with Christianity” and said the episode was an offensive example of “ideological exploitation” of a religious service. Police said they were investigating the situation as a possible hate crime.

The Jewish community of Rome expressed its outrage that such events are still taking place more than 70 years after the end of World War II and the fall of Italy’s fascist dictatorship.

“It is unacceptable that a flag with a swastika can still be displayed in public these days, especially in a city that saw the deportation of its Jews by the Nazis and their fascist collaborators,” the statement said.

After a raid on Rome’s Jewish quarter on October 16, 1943, more than a thousand Jews from the capital were deported, most of them to the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. Only 16 returned.

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