My son Max recently had his 1st Communion so I’ve been going to church, something I don’t usually do other than when someone gets married or dies and maybe at Christmas. Two things happened that reminded me why I don’t actually go. 

On the Saturday before the Communion we were asked to go for a rehearsal. The priest started prattling away to the five children in Friulano, (a dialect spoken exclusively in Friuli) giving them directions and instruction on how to enter the church, where to sit, when to stand and so on. I noticed that Max had closed the shutters on this conversation. He doesn’t speak the language and understands only a little. So I asked the clergyman if he could please speak in Italian unless he wanted my son to be doing his own thing on Sunday morning during the ceremony. His reverential response was: “Well he is going to have to learn Friulano fast then isn’t he.”

Two weeks before I had been to Sunday mass and the very same priest was presiding. He chose the subject of acceptance/tolerance as the topic for his homily that day. His sermon was long, boring and, surprise, in Friulano. He preached to a church filled with people young and old, mostly Italians, some from Friuli, others from Naples, Sicily, Rome and other regions of the peninsula. There were also a handful of representatives from other EU countries: Romania, Germany, France and Switzerland and even the odd African country. He spoke, to those who were listening and could understand, about the community’s need to embrace all people, no matter their religion, making them feel at home in our village. Not to discriminate in any way but to extend a welcome to all. These newcomers need all the help they can get. We should all do our bit. All of us. Yada yada yada.

How about starting with you, you silly twit! You have just excluded and segregated 35% of the congregation by speaking in Friulano! You hypocrite, why don’t you practice what you preach! Never mind we should go home and think about what we’d heard, you should go home and think about what you said and how stupid you are.

This is what I would have liked to have said to him, in front of his flock. But I didn’t, I held my tongue – out of respect for my children, who would have died of embarassment – until after the service. And then I got it off my chest. Sadly, although he heard me, I don’t think he actually listened.  “Hypocrisy: prejudice with a halo” said Ambrose Bierce seemed a fitting quote. Going to be a while before I go back to that church!

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Born and raised in South Africa, Manuela worked in public relations & marketing before moving into the publishing industry where she made her career. At the infamous Radium Beer Hall in Orange Grove, she met, and later married, an Italo-Natalian electronic engineer. They moved to the Netherlands and produced two perfect little people Katia & Max before moving to the scenic region of Friuli in the north-eastern corner of Italy, the place of origin of their respective parents. She does freelance work to keep the grey matter active and is currently working on her approach to the upcoming half-century milestone whilst raising her two pre-pubescent children, her biggest challenge to date.