ROME: Mayors and bishops joined thousands of Muslims across Italy on Monday to celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
One of the largest gatherings was in the Sicilian capital Palermo, where huge crowds from across the island gathered — free of COVID-19 restrictions — to pray on Foro Italico, a long promenade nestled between the sea and Mount Pellegrino.
Worshippers began arriving at dawn for common prayer and their rugs soon covered the large green space.
“We really hope that this Eid Al-Fitr will definitely mark a real rebirth for all of us after the years of pandemic,” Youssef El-Hayek, who comes from Lebanon, told Arab News at the end of the prayer.
Thanks to the improved situation “many in our community are already thinking of organizing pilgrimages to Makkah as soon as possible, something we have not done for too long a time,” he added.
The city’s mayor, Leoluca Orlando, took part in the prayer and thanked the Islamic community “for the support it offers every day to Palermo and to the well-being of all those who live here, no matter what culture or religion they belong to. Diversity and hospitality are the signature dishes of our city and we are proud of it.”
Speaking after the prayer, which was led by the Imam of the Piazza Gran Cancelliere Mosque Mustafa Boulaalam, Orlando added: “You are from Palermo just like me. And you make this city better with your contribution.”
Another large event took place in Rome, where huge crowds of Muslims were joined in the grounds of the Great Mosque by a delegate of the city’s mayor.
In Naples, the biggest event was in Piazza Garibaldi, the newly restored square in front of the main railway station in the capital of southern Italy.
In his speech in preparation to the prayer, Imam Massimo Cozzolino said: “We strongly claim our belonging to this beautiful land and in particular to this city of Naples, which has a long history of welcome and brotherhood.
“Here we really experience integration. I am so pleased that many Neapolitans came here to attend our prayer, to share this important moment for us.”
While rain put paid to any outdoor celebrations in Liguria — a seaside city close to Genoa in northern Italy — almost 600 people, including local parish priest don Ferruccio Bertolotto, attended the prayer at the Mosque of Imperia, one of the city’s largest.
In Turin, thousands of Muslims gathered at Parco Dora, a huge green area on the outskirts of the industrial city.
Catholic Archbishop Cesare Nosiglia and Mayor Stefano Lorusso joined the common prayer, which was dedicated to peace and those suffering the effects of war in places like Syria.
“I wish a good restart to all the Turinese of Muslim religion,” Lorusso told the crowd. “A new season opens in our city and we will all play a big role in that.”
Nosiglia urged Muslims and Christians “to do whatever is possible every day to eradicate every seed of hatred and violence and to cultivate the seed of universal brotherhood instead.”