Gozo Bishop Mario Grech has said that it ‘hurts’ to watch Italy's Home Affairs Minister Matteo Salvini brandish rosary beads and invoke European saints while insisting on putting a stop to the “Islamic invasion”.

Mgr. Grech was being interviewed on the Church’s radio station.

People who use their beliefs to bolster populism are manipulating religion and manipulating people’s mind, the bishop said.

“This is clear exploitation, when the homily preaches the polar opposite,” Mgr. Grech said.

During the interview, Mgr. Grech expressed his concern that Catholics with such narrow beliefs wanted to return to a sectarian Church that goes against the spirit of unity set by the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican.

Using Christian beliefs to affirm ideas of sovereignty is a sign of people who want to reverse the process of modernisation and accessibility for the Church, the Bishop said.

Mr Salvini regularly appears at rallies and speeches with rosary beads in his hands.  

The politician has openly defied calls to allow migrants rescued at sea into Italy and said the country's ports are closed to NGO rescue vessels. 

His hardline anti-migrant stance and populist rhetoric, coupled with his colourful use of social media, has boosted his popularity ratings and emboldened him to seek to topple Italy's coalition government. 

On Saturday, Mr Salvini reluctantly said 27 unaccompanied minors aboard one such charity ship, the Open Arms, could be allowed into Italy. 

In a letter, Mr Salvini told Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte he could authorise the "alleged" minors to leave the Open Arms ship, despite it being "divergent to my orientation."

"The go-ahead for the disembarkation of these people is the exclusive responsibility of the prime minister," Mr Salvini wrote.