Religion: Politics of the Grave

When a Communist dies in Italy's heavily Red region of Emilia, the funeral cortege, decked out with red banners, slogan-bearing streamers and a brass band, looks like a political rally. Prohibited by law from parading across holy ground, the procession stops at the churchyard fence—but not necessarily the propaganda. Not long ago the priest of Ruina Ferrarese (pop. 800) found that at least one gravestone in the cemetery behind his tiny church was decorated not with a cross but with hammer and sickle.

Horrified, he notified his bishop; equally horrified, the bishop consulted canon law and found a clause stipulating that "epitaphs...and...

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