Italian priest under investigation for doing Mass in swim trunks with inflatable altar

Italian priest under investigation for doing Mass in swim trunks with inflatable altar
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An Italian priest is being investigated after celebrating Mass on the beach in swim trunks while using an inflatable air mattress as an altar.

According to local reports, Father Mattia Bernasconi, from the San Luigi Gonzaga parish in Milan, had been assisting with a week-long camp organised by Liberia, an anti-mafia organisation for high school students.

On Sunday, they went to a beach near Crotone, where Bernasconi planned to conduct the service among some nearby pine trees, as noted in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

But, they couldn't find a good spot in the forest and were eager to get some shade.

"It was very hot," Bernasconi told the outlet. "So we said to ourselves: Why not in the water?"

He also said that a family heard them and gave them their mattress, which he turned into an alter.

"It was beautiful, even if we got sunburnt," he added.

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Photos soon flooded onto the internet showing Bernasconi holding the Mass in his swim trunks, with his arms outstretched over the floating air mattress in the sea.

This incident prompted warnings from Catholic authorities and an investigation from the Crotone Prosecutor's Office.

A video of the moment shows a group of teenagers in swimsuits kneeling, sitting, and squatting in front of Bernasconi as they participated in the improvised service.

In response to the incident, the Archdiocese of Crotone-Santa Severina provided a statement that said it was "necessary to maintain the minimum decorum and care for the symbols necessitated by the very nature of liturgical celebrations."

The statement also noted that it is possible to celebrate Mass outside of a church in special cases such as school camps, vacation spots and retreats.

"However, it is always necessary to contact the ecclesial leaders of the place where you are to advise on the most appropriate way of carrying out a Eucharistic celebration of this kind."

Fellow Italian newspaper Il Giorno reported that Crotone's chief prosecutor Giuseppe Capoccia said his office had launched an investigation into an "offense to a religious confession."

Bernasconi has apologised for his actions in an interview with Corriere della Sella and said it wasn't his "intention to trivialize the Eucharist or use it for other messages of any kind.:

He added that he believed the service was appropriate and respectful enough given the "simplicity and the poverty of the means."

Bernasconi declined to comment further when approached by Il Giorno and said he wouldn't stand in the way of Capoccia's investigation into the matter.

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