As a Protest, Bishop Vows to Chain Self to Church Door

ROME, JULY 16, 2002 ( A bishop has threatened to chain himself to a door of a church, closed 18 years ago after an earthquake, unless the authorities reopen it.

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Bishop Andrea Gemma of Isernia-Venafro, Italy, sent the following telegram to civil authorities Monday: «In the absence of a response before Wednesday, July 17, on the part of the competent authorities, I will begin my protest by chaining myself to the door of the Church of St. Francis — Venafro — Stop. Gemma, Bishop.»

The telegram was sent to the Italian minister of cultural and environmental properties, to the president of Italy, and to other regional and provincial authorities.

The 14th-century Church of St. Francis, located in the historic quarter of Venafro, is in one of the most populous areas of the city. It was closed in 1984 after being damaged in an earthquake.

Restoration work, begun with public funds, was not completed because of irresponsibility on the part of the government ministry of cultural and environmental properties, the Diocese of Isernia-Venafro said in a statement.

The church is now «in a state of total degradation,» the statement adds. The unavailability of the building for worship has inconvenienced the faithful, especially the elderly, the diocese said.

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