The real story behind the Pope’s message to the Mafia

Fancis at mafia vigil

The Church does not have to demonstrate to anyone that it is against the Mafia, writes Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith in The Catholic Herald.

The Pope recently attended a vigil with a group of people who have been the victims of Mafia violence, which was organised by a Catholic group called Libera, which is one of the many anti-mafia organisations active in Italy. Libera was founded by a priest, Don Luigi Ciotti. There is a report on the BBC’s website, which is breath-talking in its ignorance.

The key words in the BBC’s report to which I object are as follows:

'The meeting near Rome on Friday – organised by a citizens’ group called Libera – was aimed at demonstrating the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to organised crime, rejecting historic ties with Mafia bosses claiming to be good Catholics… Our correspondent says there is a long list of brave priests in Italy who have stood up to the Mafia, and some have paid with lives. But he says that the wider Church has been accused of not doing enough to confront the gangsters. Anti-mafia activists hope that the Pope’s words are a signal that he is on their side.'

Where does one begin to comment on reporting such as this? First of all, the meeting was in Rome, in fact in a Roman parish, not far from the Vatican, at San Gregorio Settimo church. The meeting was a prayer vigil, which, believe it or not, was not aimed at demonstrating anything at all – that phrase suggests it was some sort of political stunt, or piece of showmanship. In fact it was an act of prayer, and acts of prayer are designed to turn souls to God, no more.

Moreover, the Catholic Church does not have to demonstrate to anyone that it is against the Mafia. As Avvenire, the Italian Catholic paper points out, Pope Francis’s words closely echoed the words of John Paul II, on a visit to Agrigento, when he called the Mafia to repentance back in 1993. That, needless to say, was only one occasion among many when popes have rebuked the Mafia.

Thus it is incredible, as well as deeply insulting, to imply that the Church has had 'historic ties' with the Mafia or otherwise colluded with them, or 'not done enough' about the Mafia. It is true that many brave priests have been killed by the Mafia, but these priests were fully supported by their bishops, and to imply otherwise is slanderous.

One notes, however, that the BBC report does not substantiate these insinuations. There is a reason for this: it cannot. If it can, let us hear the names of the clerics who have supported the Mafia, and just how they did that. Let us hear in particular the names of those convicted by the state of mafia membership or being in odore di mafia (that is, colluding with the Mafia).

Photo: Pope Francis and Fr Luigi Ciotti, founder of the Italian anti-Mafia group Libera, participate in a prayer service for Mafia victims

FULL STORY The real story behind the Pope’s message to the Mafia (The Catholic Herald)

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