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Italy: Nazi war criminal to be buried by renegade Catholic priests

last update: October 15, 17:04

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Rome, 15 Oct. (AKI) - Convicted Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke's funeral was due to be held on Tuesday outside the Italian capital by a breakway hardline Catholic fraternity after the Vatican and authorities in Rome refused.

The "private" funeral of Priebke, who died in Rome last week at the age of 100, was due to be held at 5.30 pm local time in the nearby town of Albano Laziale, by priests in a college run by the ultra-traditionalist Society of Saint Pius X .

Priebke's body was collected from Rome's Policlinico Gemelli hospital and put in a hearse to be transported to Albano Laziale, 25 kilometers south-east of the capital.

Priebke's lawyer, Paolo Giachini, said the funeral mass would be conducted in Latin, in private.

Rome's prefect, or top government representative in the city, Giuseppe Pecoraro earlier revoked an ordinance issued by Albano Laziale's mayor, Nicola Marini which had banned the burial of Priebke's body in the town.

"I am very worried about public order, people are already assembling," Marini said. A far-right group tried to lay flowers at the house in Rome where Priebke died and graffiti reading “Honour to Priebke” and a black swastika appeared on a wall nearby. Similar graffiti also appeared in the northern city of Verona.

Priebke, a Nazi SS captain, never repented the 1944 massacre of 335 men and boys including 75 Jews in the Ardeatine Caves on Rome's outskirts - one of Italy's worst World War II atrocities.

Argentina - where Priebke lived for over 40 years after the war and his wife is buried - refused the body and relatives of his victims called for him to be cremated amid fears any grave will become a neo-Nazi shrine.

Priebke, had been living under house arrest in Rome since his 1998 conviction for the Ardeatine Caves massacre on 24 March, 1944, a reprisal for a partisan bombing that killed 33 German SS policemen a day earlier.

Some criticised the terms of Priebke's house arrest which included being allowed out to go shopping, to church and to run errands.

Rome’s Jewish community long resented having Priebke living in its midst. Rabbi Riccardo Pacifici, chief rabbi of Rome’s Jewish community, suggested Priebke be cremated and his ashes dispersed in the air “like those of our grandparents".

The mayor of Rome, Ignazio Marino, and authorities in Henningsdorf, his town of birth in Germany, ruled out the possibility of his being buried on their territory.

In his final interview released upon his death, he admitted the Nazis persecuted Jews but denied they were gassed during the Holocaust and accused the West of inventing such crimes to cover up atrocities committed by the Allies during World War II.

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