What do Italians think of new Pope’s money talk?

Since arriving at the Vatican in March, Pope Francis has not been shy in expressing his views about wealth. Earlier this week, he said that money makes us lazy and selfish. The Local spoke to researcher Sebastiano Sali for some insight into his remarks.

What do Italians think of new Pope's money talk?
Pope France says capitalism has created 'tyranny'. Gabriel Bouys/AFP

In his defence of the poor and those living on the margins of society, Pope Francis has also attacked radical free-market ideologies for creating ‘tyranny’ and said the ‘cult of money’ produces misery.

He told a congregation gathered at St Martha’s church in the Vatican earlier this week that ‘wealth can make us lazy and selfish’. His audience may have been small in comparison to the crowds that gather for his regular Sunday masses at St Peter's square, but his words nonetheless drew attention.

As a working-class man who often took the bus to work and spoke out about the plight of the poor during his time as a Cardinal in Buenos Aires, Pope Francis’ messages on wealth are perhaps an attempt to bring the Catholic church back to reality, Sebastiano Sali, a research fellow at the Centre for International and European Studies told The Local. 

The Pope's words also enable the church "to get to grips with what is going on in the world and the issues that are really affecting people’s lives,” he continued. “Certainly, the most intrusive and concerning issue of a great part of the western world today is the economic crisis.”

Pope Francis seems to have made a good impression so far and has been welcomed by Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, said Sali.

But how do such anti-wealth messages sit in crisis-hit Italy, and coming from an institution whose own image has been tainted by scandal over money laundering? Sali suggests that the statements are also being directed at the Vatican and the Catholic church.

The congregation at St Martha’s did not involve the usual crowd of worshipers, but was instead made up of a small number freelance health-care and economic workers of the Papacy governance, Sali said.

Italy’s economic wounds are taking a long time to heal. Unemployment reached a record high of 12 percent in April, according to figures released this week. Troubled Italians are taking their own lives: the country’s suicide rate has risen between 20 and 30 percent over the past four years, the most recent figures from the Observatory of Health show. This month alone, a man in Sicily who was €10,000 in debt set himself on fire, while another from Avellino, in the Campania region, also killed himself over debt.

Businesses are also bearing the brunt, with 31,000 closing down in the first quarter alone.

On top of this, the ongoing ills are “producing a social and cultural regression that is dividing people, families and social layers,” according to Sali.

In this respect, the Catholic church “carries a huge responsibility,” he added.

While Pope Francis has attracted respect and admiration, Sali said people are perhaps expecting a fresh message from their leader.  “An old rhetoric of good against evil cannot provide the fresh and original approach people are waiting for.”

Despite polls suggesting Italy has become more secular, with mass attendance sinking, religion still plays an important role in most people’s lives. In a recent survey, 91.6 percent of Italians declared themselves Christians with about 88 percent of them being Catholic.

A report this week in the newspaper Corriere della Sera also pointed to an increasing number of people turning to priests in times of trouble.

“A therapist is perhaps too expensive in such a difficult economic moment, whereas a confession is for free,” said Sali.

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Bonus asilo: How to get help with the cost of childcare in Italy

Parents of young children in Italy can get up to 3,000 euros towards nursery of kindergarten fees. Here's how much you may be entitled to and how to claim in 2023.

Bonus asilo: How to get help with the cost of childcare in Italy

Although the cost of childcare in Italy is lower on average than in some European countries, it still adds up to a significant cost for working families.

Parents in Italy spend a monthly average of €303 per child for a full-time place (around ten hours a day, five days a week) at a public day nursery, or asilo nido, and an average of 324 euros a month for a place in a public kindergarten (scuola materna or scuola dell’infanzia), according to the latest available figures

READ ALSO: How does the cost of childcare in Italy compare to other countries?

Fees are generally higher in northern regions, with the highest monthly nursery fees of all recorded at 515 euros in Lecco, Lombardy.

But help towards the cost of childcare is available in the form of a bonus asilo (‘nursery bonus’), which can be claimed by families of children in public daycare facilities, or in contracted private ones.

Since the measure was first introduced in 2017 – and expanded in 2020 – Italy has provided childcare benefits for parents of children under the age of three, with the aim of boosting Italy’s declining birth rate by supporting more parents in going back to work.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to raise a child in Italy?

The assistance remains in place for the 2023 school year, with parents able to claim anywhere between 1,500 and 3,000 euros depending on their income bracket.


Parents of children who will be aged three or under from January to August 2023 can claim childcare government assistance, including foster parents.

While the upper limit of 3,000 euros is only for households on the lowest incomes, there’s no upper limit, so every family is eligible to receive at least a 1,500 euro payment.

The payment applies either to nursery care costs or to private childminder fees in the case of children with health conditions that would make it unsafe for them to attend daycare with other children.

How much you can claim

The claimable amount depends on families’ economic situation, which in Italy is calculated as ISEE (Equivalent Financial Position Indicator). The following subsidies are in place:

  • Families with ISEE under 25,000 euros are entitled to an annual budget of 3,000 euros.
  • Families with ISEE between 25,001 euros and 40,000 euros can claim 2,500 euros. 
  • Families with ISEE over 40,001 euros are entitled to aid worth 1,500 euros.

Find out more about your ISEE and how to get it calculated here.

The funds apply to each child in the household that falls in the age range; so for two children under three, the amount of assistance is doubled.

READ ALSO: How much maternity, paternity, and parental leave do you get in Italy?

You can only claim up to the total amount of nursery or childminder fees charged for the year.

When and where to apply

The bonus asilo for the current school year must be requested by midnight on December 31st, 2023 through the INPS website.

Parents with young children in Italy can claim up to 3,000 euros in childcare support. Here’s how to go about it.