Rome: A politician from Italy's Northern League party sparked off a controversy when he said he becomes "happy" whenever a migrant boat sinks in the sea.
"I am happy when a migrant boat sinks," Erminio Boso said during the "La Zanzara" programme on Italy's Radio 24 station.
"I couldn't care less about the Pope, in fact I ask him to donate funds and property to house immigrants in," said Boso, a former senator, who unashamedly admits to being a racist.
Boso was referring to Pope Francis' visit to the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, where he urged Italians to welcome migrants and deplored what he called "the globalisation of indifference" towards their plight.
Boso's remarks drew criticism from a well-known Italian priest and author, Farther Enzo Biagi, who called the statements "shameful".
But a senior politician from the conservative People of Freedom party of former premier Silvio Berlusconi said Italy had to deal with the reality of illegal migration and must not lower its guard.
"A religious sermon is one thing but the Italian state's handing of such a difficult and complex phenomenon is quite another... we cannot lower our guard and passively acquiesce in these ruthless operations," said Fabrizio Cicchitto.