For Italy’s Catholic church, the battle of the bells tolls on | Crux

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by
For Italy’s Catholic church, the battle of the bells tolls on
(Credit: YouTube screen capture.)

ROME – Anyone who’s ever taken an English literature course in an American high school likely knows the classic Edgar Allan Poe poem “The Bells,” which, among other turns of phrase, celebrates “the tintinnabulation that so musically wells .. from the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.”

Those lines, however, were written in mid-19th century Baltimore. In Italy, where it’s basically impossible to find a square inch of space that isn’t with easy acoustical reach of a nearby church tower, yet where levels of religious practice are declining while cultural diversity expands, the constant tintinnabulation of the bells isn’t uniformly a cause for delight.

For years now, Italians have groused, bickered and even litigated over when, how often and how loudly church bells should ring. Official ecclesiastical decrees have been issued, police complaints have been filed, and priests have even been sued and fined for the offense of “acoustic pollution” over their bell-ringing zeal.

The latest entry in this brouhaha over bells comes from the Diocese of Savona-Noli in the northern Italian region of Liguria, where Bishop Calogero Marino has issued a new set of, well, bellwethers:

  • Bells should ring normally for 90 seconds, two minutes at maximum to signal major liturgical solemnities.
  • The volume should be low enough “not to be a source of disturbances.”
  • Bells should ring “only to indicate liturgical celebrations and other manifestations of prayer and popular piety.”
  • In terms of marking time, bells should not ring on the hour but only to signal the traditional morning, midday and evening prayers to Mary.
  • Bells may ring only between 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on weekdays, and between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on feast days, with the exceptions of Easter and Christmas Eve.
  • Other uses of bells must be approved by the bishop.

Marino is hardly the first Italian bishop to try to settle the conflict by decree. As far back as 1958, then-Archbishop Giovanni Battista Montini of Milan, the future Pope Paul VI, sent a letter to his clergy urging them to be moderate in the sounding of their bells “so as not to cause anyone avoidable annoyance.”


For Italy’s Catholic church, the battle of the bells tolls on | Crux

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