Petition calls for contextualization of Mussolini painting at Italian church

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MONTREAL -- After the John A. MacDonald statue was toppled at Montreal's Place du Canada, some historians feel it is time to address the fresco looming over the faithful in the city's Little Italy.

Beneath God on the ceiling of Our Lady of La Difesa church is Italian fascist Benito Mussolini mounted on a horse.

"I can understand people that want to erase that, but you lose the possibility to inform, to educate people more about this dark part of our history," said Luca Sollai, a professor of history at Universite de Montreal.

Italian Montrealers, along with historians and some public figures, are calling not for the removal of the painting, but for it to be contextualized with plaques and pamphlets to explain the relationship between the church and the Italian state at the time -- and to honour the victims of fascism worldwide.

"We don't want that to disappear," said Marco Piana, a history professor at Smith College. "This is an important thing, an important chapter, a dark chapter, but we don't want that to disappear. We don't want to provide a more wholesome narrative and forget about the past."

A petition is calling on the church to do something, to at least put the mural into historical context. A meeting was originally scheduled for Thursday between the petition organizer and the church, but it has been delayed because of the partial lockdown measures in force in Montreal.

The catholic archdiocese of Montreal said the suggestions for update plaques and pamphlets seems "quite reasonable."

"It's looking like we are moving in a good direction, we are very happy to have this kind of open mind from the church," Sollai said.

The meeting will be rescheduled, but it looks like Mussolini will stay, alongside a few more facts about his place in the church and history.

Emily Campbell
CTV News Montreal Videojournalist

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