Italian priest fined for ringing the bell too often
A priest in the Italian city of Florence has been fined for ringing the church bells too often. The bells sometimes chimed 200 times a day, residents say.
Don Leonardo Guerri from the Church “Santa Maria a Coverciano” in the eponymous district of Florence has been feuding for four years with locals in what Il Corriere Fiorentino describes as “the war of the bells”. The priest who had roared from the pulpit “My surname is Guerri (guerra is Italian for war, ed.), and wars don’t frighten me”, in the end, had to raise the white flag, the Italian newspaper writes delicately.
The residents around the church describe in the local press how working, relaxing and sleeping were disturbed by the roaring church bells –more than 200 of them– that rang at regular intervals between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. According to them, the worst came on holidays when the bells pealed every half hour.
After four years of petitions, legal proceedings and tests of noise pollution levels, the regional agency for environmental protection (ARPAT) in Tuscany has ruled in favour of the inhabitants. The priest has been fined the equivalent of 2,000 euros. He may now continue to ring the bells, but only to call for Mass and the day’s last service of the day at 6 p.m.
“After all these years, during which we have repeatedly asked for our living needs to be respected, we can finally resume our activities inside the houses with more tranquillity. There is still the inconvenience of Sunday, which should be dedicated to rest. The first chimes start at 8 a.m. and continue throughout the morning,” residents report.
News agency AFP has sought Don Leonardo, but he does not want to comment on the verdict.
Faced with the growing number of bell tower disputes throughout Tuscany, the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, sent a directive in 2014 to his diocese to control noise levels. He asked priests to “avoid straining the sense of Christian devotion” of residents living near bell towers with excessive ringing.
According to the British newspaper The Guardian, it is not the first time an Italian priest has been fined for ringing too eagerly. In 2008 Father Stefano Queirolo was ordered to pay 60,000 euros in damages because the bells of the Carmine church in Lavagna, near Genoa, were “too loud” and were rung for “too long at unsocial hours”. By then, residents had been suing the priest for over 13 years.
One of the complainants, a woman who lived near the church, was then compensated for impaired hearing due to the ringing, for “social harm” when friends would not visit her because of the bells ringing and finally also for “moral harm”.
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