Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s mention of God set off debates in Italian newspapers today about whether the Soviet leader was trying to ingratiate himself with the Moral Majority in the United States.
“A little bit of holy Russia reappears in the atheist,” was how Corriere della Sera headlined its front-page story on Gorbachev’s interview with Time magazine.
Like other newspapers in this cradle of the Roman Catholic Church, the Milan daily zeroed in on a single comment the Soviet leader made during the interview.
“Surely, God on high,” Time quoted Gorbachev as saying, “has not refused to give us enough wisdom to find ways to bring us an improvement” in relations.
Expressions using the word “God” are common in the Russian language and are widely used even by Communist Party officials who are normally considered to be atheists.
Gorbachev’s remark was not carried by the official Tass press agency or other news media in the country.
Rome’s La Repubblica ran a front-page drawing by Giorgio Forattini, Italy’s foremost editorial cartoonist.
It showed the Soviet leader on his knees, hands clasped in prayer, eyes to the sky and imploring, “Oh God, help me.”
A voice from above replies, “I would gladly do it if I existed.”
Il Giornale, the conservative Milan daily, commented, “We have to ask ourselves if he wanted to ingratiate himself with the American Moral Majority, the fundamentalists so close to (President) Reagan.”