We want to come out of the silence of those who would like to forget certain parts of history, and go beyond the discomfort that many have in remembering certain events. And tell that there were people in the society of those times who tried to influence the climate of terror that a war inevitably brings, in a positive way, who tried to save lives regardless of uniforms or politics, pursuing good without bad: these were the priests. For this “guilt” of theirs, they were sentenced to death, tortured, murdered, subjected to unimaginable torture. Martyrs, in utter solitude, sometimes abandoned by the Church hierarchy, which in turn was in great difficulty.
Without dismissing the importance that the liberation movement had, we should also have the courage to tell the stories, those of individuals, often overwhelmed by events; stories of quick executions, the absence of legality, deviated extremism, understandable perhaps in the context in which it had arisen , however never to be justified. Episodes that have been guiltily concealed but that cannot be denied.
As the parish priest of Crocette, a hamlet of about a thousand souls, only a few kilometres from Pavullo, near Modena. Father Luigi Lenzini was taken by force from the rectory and deported to a camp at barrel strength. Then he was tortured, his eyes pulled out and then buried, after having been strangled. In the vineyard, one could barely figure out a head that emerged from the soil; it was only a few days when someone noticed, and pious people gave him burial.
Fr. Giuseppe Preci instead, 62 years old, lived at Montalto di Zocca, in Modena. They were to awaken him at night; It was May 24, 1945, and asked him to go to a sick person. He dressed and went into the Church to take the sacraments, the Viaticum holy oil. Out in the square, the two people who had called him begged him to hurry. And asked him to go ahead. The priest obeyed, but was shot down on his back with a machine-gun.
The executions were all under false pretenses. The cliché was the usual: the priest would be called out of the rectory to invite him to give assistance to a dying person. Only after the priest discovered that the person to die would be himself, from a hasty execution.
Most of these incidents occurred in the so-called triangle of death, or red triangle: an area of Northern Italy, defined between Emilia and Romagna, where between September 1943 and1949, was a particularly high number of killings (over 12,000) a political background, attributed to militants and partisans of Communist matrix formations.
About 130 of those martyrs wearing the priest’s cloak, ninety of them have a name and surname; thanks to the work of reconstruction done on site dedicated to Rolando Rivi, a seminarian massacred by the
‘red’ fighters, who also reconstructed the last moments of life and ways of killing. Roland lived in the plains of Monchio (Reggio Emilia); He was only fourteen years old when he was taken on the morning of April 10, 1945 by a team of Communist partisans and murdered two days later.
In the months that preceded and followed the release, many priests paid with their lives the absurdity of a situation where hatred was accompanied with the betrayal of silence and fear. The 25th April, therefore, celebrating the liberation and resistance, as well as commemorating the martyrsof the Nazi fascists, however, should not forget the other massacres, that had continued well beyond the end of the war: the slaughter of priests.
Mostly unpunished murders, first buried under a blanket of defamation and then by oblivion. Men murdered because too close (or regarded as such) to fascism, or too far away – and this is the most serious wound – inflicted by communism.
Italy lived a civil war where a part of the Communists not only fought against Germans and Nazi-fascists, but also against compatriots anti-fascists, even were these opposed to their hegemonic and revolutionary pretensions. Although the generalisation that “Communists” can be misleading as to what happened, by lifting ideological barriers, the executions are a fact ensured. A slap in the face to the historical truth in the name of propaganda which has never been overcome.
Today we are witnessing new forms of repression against the faithful who testify with their lives, with sacrifice and commitment the faith of Christ, helping their neighbor, risking where war becomes ruthless. Times may change, but certain logics behind persecutions do not change. Hatrid stays the same.
Translation provided by Marina Stronati