Far-right congregants fumed at clergyman after he criticised president over Covid in his service
The toxic politics bedevilling Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil swept into Father Lino Allegri’s sacristy one Sunday in July, just after the octogenarian priest delivered a homily lamenting the president’s role in the Covid catastrophe that has killed more than half a million Brazilians.
As Allegri removed his white cassock, eight enraged congregants stormed into the rectangular backroom, past a portrait of Mother Teresa bearing the words: “The most dangerous person: the lie. The worst feeling: hate.”
“Go back to Italy! We don’t want you here!” witnesses remember one of the Bolsonaro-supporting intruders ranting at the Verona-born priest, a naturalised Brazilian citizen who has lived in the South American country for more than 50 years.
“Our president is a Christian! A good man! An honest man!” fumed another, jabbing a finger into the 82-year-old clergyman’s face.
Allegri said he had never suffered such an aggressive post-service diatribe.
“We felt bewildered,” he recalled on a recent Sunday as he sat in the same vestry where he had been harangued by the pro-Bolsonaro mob. Three armed police officers loitered on the street outside to deter another breach.
Another church member shook their head sorrowfully as they remembered watching the Bolsonarista churchgoers berate the elderly priest. “It’s fanaticism, there’s no other word for it … an incomprehensible fanaticism,” said the witness, who asked not to be named out of fear for their own security.
“Father Lino is so loved by all of us here. He brings us peace,” they added. “I just felt so utterly sad at the point our country has reached.”