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Protesters clash at funeral of Nazi criminal Priebke

Ultra-traditionalist Catholic group hold controversial service

15 October, 20:23
Protesters clash at funeral of Nazi criminal Priebke (by Stefania Fumo).

(ANSA) - Rome, October 15 - A far-right extremist gave a Fascist salute Tuesday as protesters shouted ''murderer'' and demonstrated against the funeral of a Nazi war criminal near Rome.

Supporters of former SS officer Erich Priebke gathered outside St. Pius X church in the town of Albano Laziale, where they faced off against demonstrators who were angry that their community was the site of the controversial service.

It was celebrated by a breakaway ultra-traditionalist Catholic body, the Lefebvrians.

Police separated the two sides and one demonstrator fainted amidst the turmoil as some tried to attack a Lefebvrian priest who struggled to enter the church as the crowd jostled and jeered at him.

The woman who collapsed was assisted by police and given medical treatment.

The Lefebvrian order or Society of Saint Pius X, founded in 1969, is itself no stranger to controversy as it disagrees with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. A Lefebvrian bishop, Richard Williamson, denied the Holocaust for years and was expelled last year because he would not retract his views. During the melee, others kicked at the hearse and shouted ''executioner'' as it arrived carrying Priebke's remains.

Priebke died Friday aged 100 under Rome house arrest for his part in the massacre of 335 men and boys, including 75 Jews, at the Ardeatine caves outside Rome in 1944. The Italian civilians were killed in retaliation for a partisan attack that killed 33 German soldiers.

Also on Tuesday, the leader of Rome's Jewish community said he is not surprised Lefebvrians have agreed to celebrate the funeral of a Nazi war criminal. ''This is nothing new. They are a hostile sect, throwbacks to pre-Vatican Council theology that reduced Jews to the accusation of being Jesus killers'' said Riccardo Pacifici, who leads Rome's Jewish community. The mayor of Albano Laziale said earlier today that Priebke will not be buried in his town, after Rome city and Church authorities refused permission for a funeral in the capital. ''It's an open wound. We certainly will not allow his burial, which is our competence'', said Mayor Nicola Marini. Priebke's remains will be returned to the Italian capital for cremation, the mayor said.