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Pope’s man in Italian Bishops’ Conference wrestles with political right, left

ROME – Caught in a crossfire between political parties of both right and left, the pope’s man in the Italian bishops’ conference is currently trying to make a principled argument for allowing almost 1 million undocumented minors in the country to obtain citizenship.

To use the term “caught in the crossfire” is only slightly hyperbolic. As the Italian Senate prepared to debate the bill last week, one senator from the far right Northern League was asked to leave after yelling profanities. A minister hurt her arm falling from a railing and another was injured by a mob of senators holding banners reading, “Stop the Invasion” and “Italians First!”

Italian law bases citizenship mostly on ‘ius sanguinis’ (right by blood) meaning based upon a person’s parents’ Italian citizenship, not whether or not they are born in Italy. Foreign citizens can obtain citizenship through marriage or after 10 years of residing legally in the country, four if a member of the European Union.

A foreign citizen born in Italy must wait until he is 18 years of age before he/she can apply for citizenship. The new law currently debated in the Italian Senate would change this last aspect introducing what is being called a ‘moderate ius soli’ (right by soil), which allows children born in the country to gain citizenship if one of the parents has legal permanent or long-term residency.

The law also introduces a peculiar addition, the ‘ius culturae’ (right by culture), which allows minors born in Italy to become a citizen if he/she completes five years of formative training or six years of school.

The Italian Bishops’ Conference, or CEI, has given its support to the law early on, and its Secretary General, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, has underscored that according to a survey by the British…

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