Halloween 'pagan' says Church group
'Don't trample on our culture,' bishop says29 October, 17:34
Chiming in with the Vatican's annual warnings on the festival, the (Pope) John XXIII Association said: "Halloween was born as the perpetuation of a pagan cult which evolved over time and linked up with esoteric and occult practices".
"We are faced with a sort of revival of neopaganism which, as such, is in open contrast with the spirit of Christianity".
"Does our society really need all these messages exalting horror," asked the association's head, Giovanni Paolo Ramonda.
"At a time which should be devoted to the holy memory of our saints and souls, people unthinkingly set up 'noir' banquets, crime dinners and afternoons for children in macabre masks.
"Everyone should be reminded that Halloween comes from an ancient pagan ritual in the British Isles practised by the Druids, the Celts' ferocious priestly caste".
The bishop of the southern Italian town of Locri, Msgr Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, intends to alert his flock of the dangers they face with a message to be read out in all parishes on Sunday, October 31.
"Halloween is not a part of our culture. We aren't against kids having fun but enjoyment cannot be pursued by destroying our holiest traditions and trampling on our culture. Death cannot be celebrated, instilling horror and dread".
The Northern League party, which jealously guards northern Italy's Celtic past, also came out against the feast this year, accusing it of being "inauthentic".
"Halloween is not part of our identity," said the Northern League's mayor of the town of Calalzo di Cadore, Luca De Carlo.
Meanwhile Italian police said they would "raise their guard" this year against anyone planning to desecrate churchyards or morgues or stage occult rites in abandoned buildings.
"We have found dead animals in caves in the past and we shall be particularly vigilant against any private associations which are a cover for Satanic groups," said a Rome police spokesman. POPULARITY RISING.
Halloween is not a traditional date on the Italian calendar but has been growing in popularity in recent years, with trick-or-treating becoming more common and pumpkin sales rising.
Codacons, a consumer group, said some 10 million Italians will be celebrating the festival this year, with a turnover estimated at some 300 million euros ($420 million).
More than a million pumpkins are sold over the holiday while fancy-dress shops whose traditional bonanza used to come at Carnival time in February now make a killing in masks, costumes and accessories.
One place in Italy has a much longer Halloween history.
A small town in the southeastern region of Puglia, Orsara di Puglia, has been celebrating it for the past 1,000 years.
According to local historians, the only real difference between the American tradition and the town's version of Halloween is the date.
Halloween, a secular take on All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day, is traditionally celebrated on the night of October 31, but in Orsara di Puglia the pumpkins come out on the evening between November 1 (All Saints Day) and Nov 2 (All Souls Day).
Hollowed-out and candle-lit pumpkins are placed outside homes on the evening of All Saints Day to keep away evil spirits and witches.
Townsfolks also light huge bonfires in the streets so as to illuminate the path of souls on their way to Purgatory.
Historians have traced Orsara's tradition back to a short-lived 8th-century incursion by a Germanic people, the Longobards, who in more northern parts supplanted older civilisations and reigned as the Lombards.