Swastika-Draped Coffin at Rome Funeral Draws Condemnation of Jewish Community, Catholic Church

A coffin draped in a Nazi flag is seen outside the St. Lucia church in Rome, Italy, Jan. 10, 2022.

January 12, 2022

The local Jewish community and Catholic Church in Rome have voiced outrage after a funeral procession in the Italian capital featured a coffin draped in a Nazi flag, with mourners performing fascist salutes.

The incident occurred on Monday outside the St. Lucia church in Rome’s Prati district, after the funeral ceremony for Alessia Augello, a member of Italy’s far-right New Force political party who died last Friday at the age of 44 from a blood clot.

Photos and video footage show around two dozen people standing outside the church and shouting “Presente!” while extending their right arms in fascist salutes as the coffin passes by.

“It is unacceptable that a flag with a swastika can still be shown in public in this day and age, especially in a city that saw the deportation of its Jews by the Nazis and their fascist collaborators,” a statement published by Rome’s Jewish community said.

The Catholic Church also condemned the incident, with the Vicariate of Rome saying neither the parish priest nor the priest who officiated at funeral knew what was going to transpire outside afterward. It called the swastika-adorned flag “a horrendous symbol irreconcilable with Christianity.”

“This ideological and violent exploitation, especially following an act of worship near a sacred place, remains serious, offensive, and unacceptable for the church community of Rome and for all people of good will in our city,” it added.

Police have opened an investigation into the incident as a potential hate crime.

Last April, a large group of far-right extremists were filmed doing a mass fascist salute at a public rally in Milan, Italy. And just two months ago, a shop in downtown Savona, Italy, was vandalized with antisemitic graffiti.