Archive

ShareThis Page
Pope pays tribute in Sicily to priest slain by Mafia | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Pope pays tribute in Sicily to priest slain by Mafia

The Associated Press
23724123724125a1bf33e9a2417eb922ff65220dde8b
Pope Francis is helped by Mons. Leonardo Sapienza as he lays a bunch of flowers in front of the house of Rev. Pino Puglisi, in Palermo, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.Pope Francis is paying tribute in Sicily to a priest who worked to keep youths away from the Mafia and was slain by mobsters. Francis has flown to the Mediterranean island on the 25th anniversary of the assassination in Palermo of the Rev. Giuseppe 'Pino' Puglisi, who has been declared a martyr by the Vatican. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
23724123724156b57e637f564eecb56c9064e2758066
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Palermo, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Pope Francis is paying tribute in Sicily to a priest who worked to keep youths away from the Mafia and was slain by mobsters. Francis has flown to the Mediterranean island on the 25th anniversary of the assassination in Palermo of the Rev. Giuseppe 'Pino' Puglisi, who has been declared a martyr by the Vatican. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
237241237241e8e3dcb71d8e479290c46dc59f2b680c
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Palermo, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Pope Francis is paying tribute in Sicily to a priest who worked to keep youths away from the Mafia and was slain by mobsters. Francis has flown to the Mediterranean island on the 25th anniversary of the assassination in Palermo of the Rev. Giuseppe 'Pino' Puglisi, who has been declared a martyr by the Vatican. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
23724123724136ae853920f240349318485fc936022e
Pope Francis is driven through the crowd as a large banner reading ' Let's renew the church ' is visible in foreground, in Palermo, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Pope Francis is paying tribute in Sicily to a priest who worked to keep youths away from the Mafia and was slain by mobsters. Francis has flown to the Mediterranean island on the 25th anniversary of the assassination in Palermo of the Rev. Giuseppe 'Pino' Puglisi, who has been declared a martyr by the Vatican. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
2372412372417fec9a4c6e8c47208f41fae7ec59ef7e
Pope Francis prays in front of the house of Rev. Pino Puglisi, in Palermo, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.Pope Francis is paying tribute in Sicily to a priest who worked to keep youths away from the Mafia and was slain by mobsters. Francis has flown to the Mediterranean island on the 25th anniversary of the assassination in Palermo of the Rev. Giuseppe 'Pino' Puglisi, who has been declared a martyr by the Vatican. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
237241237241a8c65e156d5043788da44e767dbbd31b
Pope Francis is driven through the crowd in Palermo, Italy, Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. Pope Francis is paying tribute in Sicily to a priest who worked to keep youths away from the Mafia and was slain by mobsters. Francis has flown to the Mediterranean island on the 25th anniversary of the assassination in Palermo of the Rev. Giuseppe 'Pino' Puglisi, who has been declared a martyr by the Vatican. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

PALERMO, Sicily — Pope Francis appealed to Mafiosi to renounce their quests for power and money as he visited Sicily on Saturday to honor a priest slain by mob henchmen for trying to protect youths from the evil clutches of organized crime.

The daylong trip by Francis to the Mediterranean island where the Cosa Nostra is rooted marked the 25th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi’s assassination. Puglisi was declared a martyr by the Vatican and beatified in 2013, the last formal step before possible sainthood.

Francis paid tribute to the priest, who worked to keep unemployed youths in a poor neighborhood of Palermo from turning to local Mafia bosses for jobs like pushing drugs. The papal pilgrimage came in counterpoint to the latest revelations about priests and bishops who sexually abused children or connived to protect the abusers in various nations, disclosures battering the highest levels of the church and testing the faith of rank-and-file Catholics.

Tens of thousands of people cheered Francis at an open air Mass held in the late morning at an esplanade along the port city’s waterfront. “Let’s renew the church,” read a large banner carried by young people in the crowd as Francis was driven by in his white popemobile.

Pressure is building on Francis to say what he knew about the sexual misconduct of U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick, who recently was stripped of his cardinal’s rank by the pope.

In a city where local bosses can exert influence by walking through a neighborhood and many business owners pay Cosa Nostra “protection” money to stay open, Francis drew applause when he told the crowd: “If the Mafioso litany is, ‘you don’t know who I am,’ the Christian one is ‘I need you.’ If the Mafia threat is ‘you will pay me,’ the Christian prayer is ‘Lord, help me to love.’”

“Thus I say to the Mafiosi: change, brothers and sisters. Quit thinking about yourselves and your money,” Francis continued in his homily.

“You know, a funeral shroud doesn’t have pockets. You can’t take it with you,” Francis said of organized crime’s ill-gained wealth from drug and arms trafficking, extortion and betting and prostitution rackets.

In a 2014 pilgrimage to another southern region of Italy, Calabria, where the powerful ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate conditions much of daily life, Francis declared that mobsters excommunicate themselves with their conduct.

Puglisi was fatally shot in the neck, on his 56th birthday, on the doorstep of his home in Palermo. Courts ruled the gunman was carrying out the orders of Mafia bosses irritated by the priest’s encouragement of young people to turn their backs on the mob.

The pope later visited the apartment building where Puglisi lived and laid a bouquet of roses on the sidewalk where a memorial marks the location of the priest’s slaying. Francis also prayed silently in front of Puglisi’s tomb in Palermo’s cathedral.

Puglisi was gunned down a few months after Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to Sicily and angrily demanded that mobsters convert their hearts or face the wrath of God at the end of their lives. At that time, the island was still shocked by the 1992 bombing assassinations, by Cosa Nostra, of Italy’s top anti-Mafia magistrates.

The gunman later turned state’s evidence, testifying that Puglisi turned to him with a smile and said he was expecting to be killed.

During his time at the cathedral, Francis warned clergy to be on guard for local crime clan bosses exploiting popular religious processions in Sicilian towns.

“You’ve seen it in the newspapers, no?” the pope said. “When the Madonna (statue) halts and bows before the home of the Mafia boss. That can’t be that way, absolutely not.”

Francis’ denunciation of the Mafia prompted praise from Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, who in a tweet called the pope’s words “holy” and vowed to use more police and funds in the state’s war against Cosa Nostra.

Coming from the populist minister, the compliment was unusual. Salvini’s anti-migrant policies clash with the pope’s frequent appeals for more, not less, solidarity with people in need.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.