Church bells go silent again in Slovenian minority village

Trieste – The saga of church bells considered too loud by some locals in an Italian village populated by the Slovenian minority continues. The bells were seized again following complaints their ringing exceeded the permitted volume levels. Church officials warn about violations of religious freedom.

In San Dorligo della Vallenear, a village located near Trieste, the bells of the local St Ulrich Church were re-seized by the Trieste authorities on Friday after a complaint was filed alleging the bell ringing was too loud and disturbing.

The tradition of ringing began again over Easter holidays after several months of the bells being on silent mode as they had been already seized in early January. Six villagers complained at the time and a petition was signed, but many locals later regretted the signing and wanted to backtrack on their decision.

This time around, it is not yet clear who filed the latest complaint.

Following what is now a second instance of seizure, Klemen Zalar, the Dolina parish administrator, pointed to violations of international law and religious freedom. In a press release, he labelled the developments as an insult to the Slovenian ethnic community, the Church, ancestors and local traditions.

He noted that the seizure was in breach of Articles 2 and 5 of the Concordat agreement between the Vatican and Italy. According to these articles, public officials may not enter church buildings arbitrarily, and the Church has absolute autonomy to carry out its activities, including the ringing of bells. “Bell ringing falls within the framework of religious freedom,” Zalar said.

When the bells were given the green light to sound again after the January seizure, the relevant rules on bell ringing were heeded, so there was no reason to re-seize them, he added. The bells were rung for the first time since the January seizure to celebrate the Easter Vigil.

Following the first seizure, Slovenia’s eight MEPs addressed a letter to the European Commission alerting it of the situation and urging it to act to eliminate what they see as a violation of religious freedom and a break with the years-long tradition.