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Italian Churches: Pray to Sponsors


In addition to votive candles, priceless artworks and standard religious paraphernalia,
an Italian church now has a sign inside advertising two banks.
Banks have entered into the hallowed walls of the Basilica di Sant’Antonio in Padua because they are funding some much-needed restoration.

Italian papers aren’t sure whether to be resigned or panic. After all, what’s a little visual pollution if it means, as it does in this case, clean Titian frescoes?
It raises a number of interesting questions. The Italian population is 95% baptized Catholic, but 14% never go to church and weekly mass attendance has been steadily dropping.
That makes for a lot of empty pews. The problem of how to fill them up — and consequently keep church coffers full — has cropped up a lot recently in Italy.
After all, ads in the church aren’t that much different from ads on church facades. Restoration sponsors, mobile phone companies and in one case sexy watch ads, are more or less constants on church fronts.
Banks in the Basilica in Padua are footing the bill for over €1 million total, it does seem stingy to deny them a bit of publicity for it.
“We aren’t going to cover the inside of the church with billboards,” Gianni Berno, head of organizing body Venerable Ark of St. Anthony, told papers. “We wanted to give deserved visibility to the companies who are taking on the financial responsibilty of the restoration.”
Florence tried to resolve the problem by instituting pay-per-view houses of worship, almost all the main churches now have entrance tickets. People who want to pray are allowed in free but usually roped off in a small chapel.
Here in Milan, priests tried Saturday Night Open House, keeping church doors open in the center of town without religious services. It was an interesting experiment — when I went it was full –but it lasted for about a month.
It looks like no-logo religion is on its way out.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 2:29 PM | Permalink

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