September 20, 2023

Vatican court condemns climate activists for damaging statue and fines them more than 28,000 euros

VATICAN CITY (AP) – A Vatican court on Monday found two environmental activists guilty of grievous harm and ordered them to pay more than 28,000 euros (US$30,000) in restitution after they glued their hands to the base of an ancient statue in the Vatican Museums in a protest to draw attention to climate change.

The two members of the environmental activist group Last Generation, Guido Viero and Ester Goffi, also received a nine-month suspended sentence and a fine of 1,620 euros each. A third activist who is on trial with them, Laura Zorzini, was fined 120 euros.

The trial arose from an August 18 protest at the Vatican Museums in which Viero and Goffi glued their hands to the base of the Laocoon statue, one of the most important ancient works in the collection believed to date back to the 1st century. before Christ. They put up a banner reading “Last Generation: No gas and no carbon”, as Zorzini filmed them.

Their action was part of a wave of Last Generation and related protests from activists across Europe targeting museums and other cultural institutions, capturing traffic for days and otherwise causing disruptions in an effort to draw attention to what the activists say the failure of governments. take action to combat climate change.

Concluding the plea, the Vatican City lawyer accused the defendants of taking advantage of Pope Francis’ well-known concern for the environment by causing “incalculable” damage to some of the world’s artistic and cultural heritage.

Lawyer Floriana Gigli said Viero and Goffi knew their protest would damage the artwork, citing their decision to glue their hands to the base, not the statue itself, and yet they never expressed remorse for the damage caused.

None of the defendants were present at the Vatican’s criminal tribunal for the verdicts.

At the previous hearing on May 24, Viero and Goffi told the court they never intended to damage the statue, but also vigorously defended their case. Viero told the court that as a father and grandfather he felt obligated to draw attention to Italy’s failure to halt global warming. Goffi, for her part, remembered carrying a glue solvent in her bag, but the Vatican restorers used a different acetone-based substance to loosen their hands.

The Vatican prosecutor, Catia Summaria, had called for convictions: she demanded a two-year prison sentence and a fine of €3,000 each for Viero and Goffi and a month’s imprisonment for Zorzini. But she said if the court were to decide on suspended sentences, the defendants would have to be ordered to pay back the full cost of the damage to the statue.

Gigli said the actual cost was impossible to estimate as the statue is a priceless work of art and has been permanently damaged. She asked the court for an estimate to come up with a figure, saying the restoration alone had cost €3,148.

In the end, the court calculated the restitution owed to the Vatican City at 28,148 euros. There was not immediately a word about a profession.

At the latest hearing, the head of the marble restoration laboratory at the Vatican Museums, Guy Devreux, said the damage to the base was ultimately less than he expected, but was nevertheless permanent. He emphasized that the statute’s marble base should be considered “absolutely” an “integral part of the work.”

Last Generation has said it targeted the Laocoon statue, believed to have been built in 40-30 BC. Rhodes is carved because of the symbolic story behind it. According to legend and the Vatican Museums’ own website, Laocoon warned his fellow Trojans against accepting the wooden horse left behind by the Greeks during the Trojan War. The group said the climate crisis is the modern warning ignored by political leaders.

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