The parents of the 10-year-old, called Rometta, were furious after twice being told their daughter was “not ready” to participate in the important Catholic tradition at their church in Messina.
According to her mother, parish priest Father Scibilia said her daughter was “unable to understand the significance” of taking the sacrament.
“She won't change over time,” Rometta's mother told Giornale di Sicilia. “Barring a miracle, she will never be like other children.”
The case came to the attention of Italy's Education Undersecretary, Davide Faraone, who took to Facebook to lambast the “ignorance” and “discrimination” of the Catholic church in a lengthy post.
Faraone, whose own daughter is autistic, highlighted that Italian churches routinely shun autistic children.
“If you search 'priest denies communion to autistic child' on Google, there are pages and pages of results from all over Italy,” wrote Faraone.
“But religion is about heart, not mind. This only happens because there is so much ignorance around autism. We can't go on like this and need to end discrimination.”
In the wake of Faraone's comments, Father Scibilia told Corriere that he “was ready to celebrate the child” and has denied resisting her parents' requests to allow her to take her first Communion.