The archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, told reporters last week that people who pollute the environment are “not in the grace of God” and cannot receive Catholic communion.
Sepe made his comment at the tenth annual convention of Greenaccord, a Christian environmental group. For decades in Sepe’s city of Naples, the mafia buried toxic waste products around the city, which experts have linked to local cancer clusters. The Camorra, as the mafia is known in Naples, still truck in waste from all over Italy—but they no longer control dump sites. In recent weeks, noxious trash that the mafia allegedly left to rot in Naples’ streets has been making headlines and causing violent riots.
“We need to tell the truth to people about what happened,” Sepe said on Wednesday, according to the Italian publication Andkronos. “But we also need to stress the positive action that has already been taken. It is time for everyone to unite and continue to free our earth of poisons.”
Sepe’s remarks are unusual. Typically, when Catholic leaders make high-profile pronouncements about who is unfit for communion, their targets are American politicians who support abortion. An American cardinal recently declared that Nancy Pelosi should not receive the Catholic sacrament because of her pro-choice views, and whether Joe Biden should take communion is a matter of perennial debate.