Neapolitans vow to keep Church's hands off saint's 'treasure'

Wed Mar 9, 2016 12:07pm EST
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By Isla Binnie

NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) - A new revolt against church and state is gripping Naples, the Italian city that drove out Spain's religious inquisitors in the 1500s. This one is about treasure.

It is specifically about who is in control of an astonishing collection of more than 20,000 objects said to rival Britain's Crown Jewels.

"The Treasure of San Gennaro" is housed in an ornate chapel built some 20 years after proud Neapolitians chased the Spanish Inquisition out in 1510.

It was begun there to honor Naples' patron and protector, San Gennaro. The treasure, from a bejeweled mitre to golden chalices and silver statues, started when the faithful prayed to be spared from the plague and eruptions by Mt. Vesuvius.

Until now, an independent committee of laymen has managed the chapel and the treasure. But a government decree could put the Catholic Church in at least partial control.

The decree, signed by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano last month after a court ruling, defined the chapel as an entity that would usually have clerics on its board.

"This is a question of power," said Paolo Jorio, director of the museum that houses the treasure. "The cardinals have been very annoyed that they don't have a say in the running of the chapel."

Some 2,000 people turned out last Saturday to protest against the decree and show their support for the committee, which plans to appeal to a regional court.   Continued...

White sheets hang from a rope to protest against the decision of the Italian government to re-found the deputation of San Gennaro in Naples, Italy.  REUTERS/Ciro De Luca