“I ask you to free the figure of the Virgin Mary from the influence of criminal organizations.” Pope Francis wants to fight the mafia, banish it from the Church. Especially in those processions that are held in some towns, such as Polsi, or Corleone, in which the image of the Virgin, or of the patron saint, makes a ‘bow’ when passing by the house of the ‘godfather’, as a.
Precisely this weekend the Sicilian town where Francis Ford Coppola was inspired for his trilogy of The Godfather celebrates religious holidays. But this year, without processions due to the coronavirus, as is also the case in Spain. The Vatican wants to take advantage of the situation to end a tradition condemned by the Church: one that mixes religious devotion with the power of criminal organizations. If the secret business between gangsters and the highest hierarchy of the Church is an ever-present speculation, but could never be judicially certified, the relationship between the Catholic liturgy and mafia folklore is still alive in the Italian territories where the Cosa Nostra or the Ndrangheta are present.
During the procession of San Leoluca, the patron saint of Corleone, it is not difficult to observe how the image of the saint stands to ‘greet’ a man to whom everyone pays their respects, including the religious image. Much more scandalous was, in 2016, the ‘visit’ of the Virgin during a procession to the home of Ninetta Bagarella, the wife of the capo de la Cosa Nostra, the bloodthirsty Totò Riina, mastermind of the murder of anti-Mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. Riina, alias La Bestia, died in prison at the age of 87, a few months after that greeting from Saint John the Evangelist to his wife. He was serving a sentence of 26 life sentences for his crimes.
“This is not religion! It is a superstition. How is religion read by these leaders, by these mafias? As a reality for which God also submits to them … And the Virgin also bows before them and sponsors them and their authority? They almost want to teach people that God is with them. So they also want to use people’s religious feelings so that they are not free, but slaves, “declares, indignantly, the Franciscan Stefano Cecchin, President of the Pontifical International Marian Academy, who has received a letter from the Argentine Pope urging him to end these practices.
“The gangsters are excommunicated”
These rituals are part of the essence of criminal organizations. “We want to eradicate it,” says Cecchin, who admits that it is not easy. Throughout his pontificate, Bergoglio has expressed the incompatibility of being a Christian and a mobster. In 2013, on the esplanade of Sibari, it was crystal clear: “Those who follow the path of evil in their lives, such as mobsters, are not in communion with God: they are excommunicated,” he said.
After these words, about 200 gangsters from a high security prison protested against Bergoglio, refusing to go to mass, while in Oppido Mamertina (Calabria), the image of the Madonna delle Grazie stopped for 30 seconds and bowed in front of the house of the godfather of the Ndrangheta Giuseppe Mazzagatti, 82 years old and under house arrest for health reasons, but sentenced to life imprisonment for various homicides and mafia association.
A couple of years ago, during the mass celebrated in Palermo in memory of Blessed Pino Puglisi, a priest assassinated by the mafia, Francisco stressed that “you cannot believe in God and be a mobster. The gangsters do not live like Christians, because they blaspheme with their lives the name of God-love “.
That’s why “to the gangsters I say: stop thinking about yourself and your money. Become the true God of Jesus Christ, dear brothers and sisters. I tell you, gangsters: if you don’t, your life will be lost and it will be the worst defeat “said the Pontiff. There are those who trust in Francisco’s ability to end the secular marriage between the Church and the Mafia, while others point to the danger posed by the Argentine pope joining the Mafia as an enemy.
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