From "La Repubblica" (Italian daily paper), 2 September 1999, p. 21


"Give 100 million lire to the poor!"
Calabria, four statues stolen in churches.
A famous name claims theft: Luther Blissett


by Pantaleone Sergi

Diamante - Since the fourth Holy Child was kidnapped, snatched from the arms of the Virgin Mary, the people of Cosenza's Tyrrhenian coast (where tourists are enjoying the last sunny days) have started to be alarmed. Nobody can figure out what is the real purpose of the persons hiding themselves behind the name "Luther Blissett". They wrote "Up with Marx! Up with Debord!" at the foot of their communiques, by which they summoned Ecclesiastic authorities to distribute 100 million lire [about $53,000, t.n.] to the local poor.

Luther Blissett is a famous alias on the Internet, a cyberpunk [sic! :-)]. However, this tyrrhenian name-sake, who stole statues in the little towns of Belvedere Marittimo, Tortora and Diamante, does not seem to feel at home with the Net: the communiques are typewritten by an old Olivetti (very anarchist-chic), and the language reminds of past red terrorists: "The Holy Child will be destroyed. Anyway, you only care for the money, not for the Child's sacral value [...] In Calabria people die of hunger, thirst, unemployment, mafia, corruption and usury. Illegal employment is the rule.

There are no houses. The Church doesn't care and gets richer. If you don't distribute a 100 million lire worth of food in the next 48 hours, the Holy Child will be smashed into pieces."

Parish priests are alarmed: four art thefts in less than two weeks. Padre Antonio Ranuio, priest of Diamante parish, says he is "sad and sorrowful". Padre Guido Mollo, priest of Belvedere parish, talks about a conspiracy. As a matter of fact, all thefts took place in broad daylight, and the only way to avoid new ones would be shutting all churches' doors.

According to investigating authorities, these thefts have not ideological motives. The traffic of sacred art is growing wide, and most little towns host rich collections of XVIIth century Neapolitan art. Diamante's Church of Immaculate Conception hosted the 15-inches wooden Holy Child which the thieves snatched from the arms of the Madonna del Rosario. According to experts, the statue has a high commercial value for art collectors. "I hope this was the last burglary", says padre Ranuio, who fears a sacrilegous use of the statues.

The Holy Child Gang started to strike at mid-August holyday. The first theft (a XVIIth century Holy Child in Belvedere) took place on the 16th. Two days later, again in Belvedere, the second victim was a Crown-carrying angel. Another Holy Child was stolen a few days later in Tortora's Chiesa dell'Annunziata: the thieves broke in from a side entrance and snatched the child from St. Anthony's arms. Last monday, the latest theft in Diamante. Believers are now praying and begging God that the statues return to their churches. The Carabinieri say they have some clues and will capture the mysterious gang.


[A press-release from the authors of *Q*]


Bologna, 2 September 1999

Journalists wonder what is behind it: why do unknown people steal Holy Child statues from the churches of Tyrrhenian Calabria? Why do they use the "Luther Blissett" multiple name?

To us, there's nothing "behind" it except what our name-sakes themselves wrote in their communiques: the Church must give 100 million lire to the poor, or the statues will be destroyed. It's plain and simple: priests must empty their wallets!

It is possible that these wonderful actions of iconoclasty and class war, these attacks to the catholic power organizing its arrogant self-celebration (the 2000 Holy Jubilee) was inspired by our novel *Q* - the whole story seems has an Anabaptist flavour and seems to have gushed out from the novel's pages. If this were real, we'd be happy to be described as "wicked teachers". Indeed, we are very keen to call ourselves the "ideological mandators" of the Calabria events. So far, this is the best consequence of the 30,000 copies we have sold.
We hope that numberless emulators follow these Calabrian steps. Forcing priests to shut the doors of their churches is the best way to oppose the impending Jubilee.

In the unfortunate case the police capture our Calabrian name-sakes, we'll express our active solidarity by any means necessary.

We don't need a War on Poverty. What we need is a war on the rich.


Luther Blissett

(in this line-up: Fabrizio P. Belletati, Giovanni Cattabriga, Luca Di Meo, Federico Guglielmi)