Pope pays trib­ute to priest slain by Mafia

He hon­ors cler­gy­man who pro­tected youths from or­ga­nized crime

The Dallas Morning News - - World - Tr­isha Thomas, The As­so­ci­ated Press

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 the pon­tiff to the Mediter­ranean is­land where the Cosa Nos­tra is rooted marked the 25th an­niver­sary of the as­sas­si­na­tion of the Rev. Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi. He 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.

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.

In a city where 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 said. “You know, a fu­neral shroud doesn’t have pock­ets. You can’t take it with you.”

Puglisi was fa­tally shot in the neck, on his 56th birth­day, on the doorstep of his home in Palermo. Courts ruled that 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.

An­dreas So­laro/Agence France-Presse

Pope Fran­cis paid his re­spects Satur­day in Palermo, Si­cily, at the place where the Rev. Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi was mur­dered in 1993.

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