BY BRUCE JOHNSTON
ITALY's CLERGY have distinguished themselves by emerging as some of the strongest critics of the US military presence in the country, after a jet cut through a cable car wire at the resort of Cavalese in northern Italy, killing 20 skiers.
In his sermon on Sunday, Padre Pier Luigi Macherin, the parish priest at Aviano, sight of the largest US airbase in Italy and where the EA6B Prowler returned after severing the wire and sending the cable car into the valley, told a packed cathedral he did not understand technical things.
"But what I do know is that you have to put an end to flying over our valleys in your planes," he boomed at the congregation, which included US servicemen.
Inspired by the words of Jesus admonishing the soldiers of Herod, he added: "If you do not change your heart, then also you meet a horrible death.
"The fragile hands of man have been entrusted with toys that pose too much of a risk. Riding thunderbolts of war, we fool ourselves into imagining ourselves to be strong and unconquerable, while instead we remain small, and weak."
Don Tomrnaso Volcan, the parish priest of the resort of cavalese, 90 miles from the base, who blessed the bodies of the dead in the snow as night fell after the accident, blamed President Clinton.
In a homily delivered in
one of two services of mourning, he blamed the incident on the American president, whom he called "a womaniser and a warmonger".
As doctors in Trento began the grim task of carrying out autopsies on the remains of the 20 people whose cable car crashed 300 ft into a valley, killing everyone inside, the black was matched by that of the shuttered village of Cavalese, population 3,600.
Much of the population filed sadly with visiting delegations into the church of the Pieve, close to the cablerun, to mourn the dead at a service.
Fr Lorenzo Casarotti, presiding, intoned from the pulpit: "The skies are not for the most powerful or aggres
sive, but for everyone. Today, 20 people are screaming against those who took over our skies.
"The people of Cavalese and officials have screamed about this. they went unheard."
"I often used to walk under that cable car, many children did," said 12-yearold Gabriele Fiorone on his way into church with an Italian red, white and green flag.
A Polish child Gabriele's age was one of the victims of the disaster. The boy, Filio Strzelczyk, would have turned 13 this month.
So mangled were victim's bodies that doctors had to match their fingerprints with personal effects left in hotel rooms. The coffins of each were marked with the words "violent death".