Where Tyrants and Worship Collide
The dress code was rigorously black. The chants nostalgic, a medley of Fascist truisms peppered with clipped bursts of “Duce, Duce, Duce” that was sharply shushed when the straggly parade entered the cemetery in this central Italian town late last month to arrive at its mecca: the tomb of the former Fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini.
“Why, why do you come here, who is this man Mussolini?” asked the celebrant, Giulio Tam, a traditionalist Catholic priest.
“We come to thank this man for the most European, most Mediterranean, most original of ideas,” answered Father Tam, a familiar figure in right-wing circles, before he began reciting the rosary.
So it goes in Predappio, three times a year, to commemorate the day of Mussolini’s birth (on July 29, 1883, in a house not far from the cemetery), his death (at the hands of partisans on April, 28, 1945) and the so-called March on Rome, which brought Mussolini’s party to power in Italy in October 1922.
“I’ve been coming here, at least once or twice a year, since Aug. 31, 1957, the day they brought the corpse of the Duce here,” said Marcello, a personable 85-year-old veteran who asked that his last name not be used. “My faith in him has remained intact.”