Italy’s Matteo Salvini Denies Conflict with Pope

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ROME — Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has denied that there is opposition between himself and Pope Francis, saying that meeting the pope would be a “great honor.”

“Beyond some excessive polemics that I don’t share, I believe the occasions in which we collaborate [with the Vatican] are far more numerous” than cases of conflict, Salvini statedin an interview with the Italian magazine Oggi.

“Millions of Italians voted for me — for the most part, I believe, Catholics,” Mr. Salvini said. “I’ll defend the borders and suppress the traffic in human beings.”

“My duty is to make decisions, sometimes painful and difficult, but necessary to establish rules that benefit everyone,” said the interior minister, who ran for office on a platform of reining in rampant illegal immigration in the country.

While Mr. Salvini denied animosity toward the pope on his part, there has been plenty of hostility toward him from the Italian Catholic hierarchy, something Salvini has said he finds “bewildering.”