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Vatican official steps down after stirring debate on French immigration policy

September 01, 2010

A Vatican official who had strongly denounced the French government’s campaign to expel illegal Gypsy residents has resigned.

Archbishop Agostino Marchetto stepped down from his post as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants, just a few days after he had charged that the French government was violating human rights with its crackdown on illegal Gypsy immigrants.

Vatican official denied that the archbishop’s resignation was a result of the recent controversy. Father Ciro Benedettini, the deputy director of the Vatican press office, said that the Italian archbishop had begun planning his retirement “a while ago,” because of his advancing age.

Archbishop Marchetto is 70 years old: 5 years short of the normative retirement age for bishops. He has served as secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants since November 2001.

The protests that greeted Archbishop Marchetto's criticism of French policies were exacerbated by one clear misinterpretation of his words. Some angry protesters said that the archbishop had compared the French immigration crackdown to Nazi racial policies. In fact, in calling for compassion for the Roma people, the archbishop had made the factual observation that Gypsies, like European Jews, were targeted for extinction by Hitler's regime.


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