What a sweet spectacle it is to observe Rome’s pastel-colored cityscape and glowing white marble churches from above St. Peter’s Basilica just before sunset. But this is not what one Italian entrepreneur had in mind late Monday evening and years since experiencing any kind of dolce vita in his native land.
According to local press reports, around 6:00 pm on May 20, Vatican police and tourists discovered a businessman from Trieste, Marcello Finizio, atop the massive dome of St. Peter’s, the one famously redesigned by Michelangelo to awe the millions of visitors to Rome each year.
Clinging to an upper window ledge and support cable, he unfurled a white banner with Italian and English words of protest and plea:
STOP THIS MASSACRE!
THE POLITICAL HORROR SHOW IS CONTINUING!
POPE FRANCIS, HELP GET US OUT OF THIS NIGHTMARE!
GET US OUT OF THE EURO!
GET US OUT OF THE ESM [European Stability Mechanism]!
Finizio’s red and black words in large block capital letters were unfortunately barely legible, and really only to paparazzi with powerful-enough zoom lenses to zero in on the incredible photo-op.
Indeed every Italian citizen is perfectly aware of his country’s frustrating foibles, not to mention the virtual inability of the Vicar of Christ to work an economic miracle in Italy and/or expel demons from the “political horror show” in Rome and Brussels, nevertheless a daring impresario braved harsh winds and rains to send a message to the world.
He was convinced to come down after two days. Perhaps a record only surpassed by the Renaissance builders of St. Peter’s Cupolone.
Finizio’s submission to authorities came just in time before the square below had to be prepared for the Wednesday papal audience which 40,000-50,000 pilgrims attend every week. The Vatican’s enforcement officials feared the worst—a suicide jump in front of such a large public and holy venue, even right before the pope’s own eyes. And not without good reason: along with Greece, Italy has been leading the way in Europe, particularly among its business class, in terms of suicides committed for economic reasons. Italian suicide rates have peaked with increased financial hardships, up 52%, with respect to two years ago.
What is interesting here is that Finizio told officials by cell phone that he would not come down “until the government starts helping businesses“. This form of “help” can be easily interpreted as crony-cry for special favors and state bailouts for struggling businessmen like himself. Yet in the last line two lines the entrepreneur reveals a neo-liberal, no-big-state-manipulation-of-the-market-approach to economics.
The fact that Finizio wants Italy out of the EU and nothing to do with dependency on Brussels’s top-down bailout programs, like the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), is because he knows that this comes with a huge price to pay: they demand radical fiscal compliance and, adherence to sovereignty compromising policies, and backroom-style political racketeering with corporate CEOs and European MPs. Exactly the sort of “political horror show” that Euroskeptics, like Daniel Hannan, have always warned us.
According to one his colleagues in the video below, the kind of government help Finizio is pleading for is simply one that rids itself of inefficiency, steps out of the way of enterprising individuals, and stays purposely small.
Most importantly, entrepreneurs like Finizio dream of a government that is free of bias and corruption, particularly in its authority over operating permits and licences.
Apparently not only did an arsonist set fire to his popular beach restaurant, but Finizio also finds himself now struggling to regain permits and licences to rebuild. Knowing Italy, this is a classic case of “double trouble” for businesses owners — suffering ruthless behavior from local competition (often from mafia and their own monopolizing and scheming establishments) coupled with corruption from government officials who collude with the same ruthless competitors, who aim to snuff out honest businessmen, by accepting bribes to revoke and deny essential permits and licences.
Hence, we can commiserate with a hardworking, enterprising restaurateur whose popular seaside local “La Voce della Luna” — named for Fellini’s famous “The Voice of the Moon” comic film with Roberto Benigni — no longer fills him or anyone else in Italy with much amusement or laughter.
Finizio admits that he has reached his limits of personal and professional frustration, entangled in a web of bureaucracy for fire insurance claims, bankruptcy and court proceedings inept at upholding a rule of law, and being hit hard for restart-up capital during one of Italy’s longest recessions and credit crunches in decades.
But the final blow for Marcello Finizio came recently when he learned he’d lose his last real asset—his home — to repay his debts. In statements to the Italian press, he lamented: “At 47 years old, I am out on the streets and in just a few weeks my home will be auctioned off. But this time I will not give up the fight!” His colleagues say, “He is not crazy, but just a desperate entrepreneur…who used to provide jobs”.
During the Wednesday papal audience Francis made no formal mention of Marcello Finizio, who the Italian press have belittled as a “serial climber” (he briefly to pull the same stunt-protest last October and July). Francis did however instruct faithful to follow the Holy Spirit to courageously transform and evangelize the world with our personal witness. In his own way Finizio daringly did just that and perhaps inspired the Holy Father indirectly in his catechesis Wednesday, which followed Pentecost Sunday.
I have no doubt the Holy Father, who is openly sensitive to poverty and the deep frustration and even desperation that it bears upon human flourishing, personally prayed for Finizio and his losses. Stay tuned to see whether the two will actually meet and discuss in the coming weeks and months.
Francis does tend to surprise us!