On a mis­sion

Pope Fran­cis in Italy pays trib­ute to priest killed by the Mafia.

The Star Malaysia - - World -

PALERMO (Si­cily): Pope Fran­cis ap­pealed to Mafiosi to re­nounce their quests for power and money as he vis­ited Si­cily to hon­our a priest slain by mob hench­men for try­ing to pro­tect youths from the evil clutches of or­gan­ised crime.

The day-long 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 neigh­bour­hood 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 at an es­planade along the port city’s wa­ter­front on Satur­day.

“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 US 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 neigh­bour­hood 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,” added Fran­cis.


Gift of love: Fran­cis re­ceiv­ing a gift from an artist of a paint­ing of slain priest Puglisi dur­ing the mass at the Foro Ital­ico seafront.

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