The Italian Almanac

saturday night confession on the beach

Italian News - July 26

The beaches of Italy offer a wide variety of facilities: loungers, umbrellas; ice creams, of course; and, increasingly, a chance to get a massage or a tattoo. But the Adriatic resort of Pescara can now offer a unique attraction - the opportunity to emerge from a night of partying with a soul wiped free of sin. Don Vito Canto, a 33-year-old priest from a village near Pescara, listened to confessions "almost uninterruptedly" from Saturday night into Sunday morning at a makeshift shrine on the sands.

Backed by volunteers wearing red Baywatch-style T-shirts and calling themselves the Lifeguards of Jesus, Father Vito and another priest were on hand to offer penance and absolution from 10 at night until one in the morning. "Some people were a bit mistrustful and others were sarcastic. But in general the reaction was very positive," he said.

Some 30 Lifeguards of Jesus - drawn from a Catholic lay association, the Movimento pro Sanctitate - fanned out from the nearby Church of St Peter to fish for souls among the resort's night-time revellers. Their outpost on the sands was made up of a crucifix, a host in a monstrance and a lifebelt.

The Adriatic coast is a dance culture mecca in which even the Almighty would at times struggle to be heard over the riffs and breaks. "But," said the priest at St Peter's, Monsignor Vincenzo Amadio, "we have to get in touch with people in the places where they are. We are changing from a church that called people in - ringing bells and the like - to one that goes after them."