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A priest in a rural village of central Italy has started offering free alcohol to adults and crisps to children in a bid to boost Mass attendance, as part of a supermarket-style loyalty programme.

In a tongue-in-cheek post on his Facebook profile, Father Gianfranco Formenton of the church of Saint Martin in Trignano, a hamlet of 1,500 near the Umbrian town of Spoleto, announced that the rewards
scheme would apply from July 2.

Father Formenton offered prosecco from his home region of Veneto and crisps mixed with Communion wafers as snacks, but only to owners of a “Mass Attendance Card.”

He also stressed that the church premises are air-conditioned and available for hire for birthdays and other events.

In an interview with Il Messaggero newspaper, which first reported on the unusual initiative on Sunday, Father Formenton said the idea was “born as a game, thought up with the youth members of the parish and mainly targeted towards them.”

“Every Sunday, at the end of Mass, I put a stamp on the card, to certify [the owner’s] attendance. It’s just a game, but it helps to remind everybody that faith is a commitment and, as such, it does not go on holiday,” Formenton said.

The priest was not available for comment on Monday, but on Facebook, following national publicity for his unconventional pastoral methods, he wrote a message in the Veneto dialect, saying: “All this fuss for a prosecco and a couple of crisps?”

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