Church steeples off limits for Italian mobile telephone masts
Church towers should not be used to host mobile telephone masts, the Italian Bishops' Conference announced on Friday.
Italy has an estimated 100,000 churches and, with 40 million users, more mobile phone owners than any other country in Europe, so church towers seemed an important opportunity for the telecommunications industry.
But a circular signed by Monsignor Ennio Antonelli, secretary general of the Italian Bishops' Conference, decrees that the use of church buildings for purposes unconnected with religion would violate church law and could jeopardise the fiscal exemptions and other privileges granted to churches by the Italian state.
"Any permanent use, even partial, of a religious building for reasons unrelated to its principal purpose would not only violate canon law but could also jeopardise its special civic status," he warned.
The bishop also pointed out that it would be imprudent to compromise the unique meaning and visibility of Christian symbols in an increasingly multicultural society.
Mobile phone masts are deemed to be "alien to the sanctity" of churches and those that have already been installed must be dismantled, the bishops' circular says.