Member of the right-wing Lega (League) party, Lorenzo Fontana, delivers a speech after being elected new speaker of the lower house on Oct. 14, 2022, at the parliament building in Rome. / Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images

Rome, Italy, Oct 14, 2022 / 14:06 pm (CNA).

The Italian state’s new No. 3 referenced Pope Francis, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Blessed Carlo Acutis in his first speech on Friday.

Lorenzo Fontana, 42, was elected president of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Italy’s Parliament, with 222 out of 400 chamber votes Oct. 14.

The Catholic politician is also a student at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, known as the Angelicum, in Rome.

After receiving a bachelor’s in philosophy from the Angelicum in 2020, Fontana is currently studying for the license, a source from the Angelicum confirmed to CNA.

A license in the pontifical university system is equivalent to something between a master’s degree and a doctorate in the U.S.

The president of the Chamber of Deputies is considered the third-highest position in the Italian state after the president of the republic and the president of the senate. (The prime minister, officially president of the council of ministers, is the head of government.)

Italy’s presumptive prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, has also been hailed as a Catholic by some U.S. media, though she usually refers to herself only as a “Christian.”

Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera described Fontana as “a full Catholic” and reported that he and his wife were married in a Catholic wedding using the pre-Vatican II rite. He and his wife, Emilia, have one daughter.

Fontana is a member of the right-wing Lega party.

In his first speech as chamber president Oct. 14, Fontana greeted Pope Francis and was met with loud applause and standing ovations — as well as some booing — after a statement that the pope is a “spiritual reference of the majority of Italian citizens, promoting respect for the highest moral values in the world.”

“Starting with respect for human dignity and fundamental rights,” Fontana continued after the applause, “he is carrying out a fundamental action for peace.”

The new president of the Chamber of Deputies also quoted Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 at age 15 from leukemia and is known for both his remarkable holiness and ordinary boyhood interests in things like computers and Pokemon.

“Blessed Carlo Acutis said ‘everyone is born as an original but many die as a photocopy,’” Fontana said. “Parliament must not give in to the homogenization that is an instrument of totalitarianisms.”

He said “diversity is not a rupture, diversity is not an indication of superiority of some realities, wrongly seen as inferior, but an expression of democracy, respect for history. The richness of Italy and the richness of Europe lies precisely in diversity.”

Near the end of his 16-minute address, he cited St. Thomas Aquinas, a 13th-century Dominican priest influential in the areas of theology, philosophy, and law.

“We must remember what St. Thomas Aquinas indicated,” Fontana said: “‘Evil is not the opposite of good, it is the deprivation of good.’ The task for us parliamentarians will be not to deprive Italy of the good. We must strive for it with humility, seriousness, and sobriety. We are the most beautiful and creative people in the world.”

The Catholic deputy has been involved in politics from a young age. He has degrees in political science and history. In his 20s he held positions in local government in his home city of Verona.

He was a member of the European Parliament from 2009–2018, Italian minister of the family and disability from 2018–2019, and minister of European affairs for part of 2019.

In recent years, Fontana has participated in demonstrations promoting the traditional family and pro-life values, and he was one of the organizers of the 2019 World Congress of Families in Verona.

He is also a member of the Committee No. 194, which works to overturn Italy’s Law 194, which legalized abortion in 1978.

He is co-author of the book “La Culla Vuota della Civiltà” (“The Empty Cradle of Civilization”) about Italy’s demographic decline.

Fontana has been criticized by his political opposition for his pro-life and anti-LGBTQ stance, past pro-Russia comments, as well as for some of his statements against mass immigration, including a 2016 quote reported by Il Corriere della Sera that “with gay unions and immigration they want to dominate us and cancel our people.”

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