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Achille Lauro stirs 'blasphemy' row with Sanremo 'baptism'

'Sacrilege' says bishop, 'have a laugh' counters priest

(ANSA) - ROME, FEB 2 - Italian singer Achille Lauro has sparked a blasphemy row in Catholic Italy by 'baptising' himself during his performance on the opening night of the Sanremo Song Festival Tuesday.
    "It was a pitiful exhibition, which derided and profaned the holy symbols of the Catholic faith in a vapid and sacrilegious context," said Sanremo Bishop mons. Antonio Suetta.
    But the former parish priest on the migrant stepping stone island of Lampedusa and current priest at Racalmuto near Agrigento, Don Carmelo La Magra, said: "Can it be poossible that all your Catholicism comes out only when Achille Lauro sings? Be scandalised by other things, and have a laugh every now and then!".
    Presenter Amadeus on Tuesday night beat his own record, set in 2020, for a Sanremo song festival opening night TV audience.
    Some 10.911 million Italian tunes in to the annual extravaganza of song and talent, notching a share of 54.7%. That compared to 10.058 million viewers and a share of 52.2% in 2020, when the presenter first took on the demanding job of host and chief organizer.
    Highlights of the first night included the guest return of last year's winners Maneskin, the Roman rock band that went on to Eurovision and US glory, and a candid appearance by tennis star Matteo Berrettini who got to the Wimbledon final last year and lost in the Aussie Open semi to eventual winner and 21-time slam winner Rafa Nadal.
    There was also a star turn by showman Fiorello.
    2020 winner Mahmood and his new younger partner Blanco topped the first night competition, with Laura Pausini among the big names appearing Wednesday, along with a monologue by antimafia writer Roberto Saviano. (ANSA).


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