A Calabrian bishop has ended all religious processions in his diocese after 30 men carrying a large statue of Mary and hundreds of people accompanying the statue paused and bowed in front of the house of an organised crime boss, reports the CNS.
The first reaction of Bishop Francesco Milito of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi, Italy, was to say that those who bowed during the July 2 procession in Tresilico 'are clearly far from even a minimum spirit of pure, correct and authentic faith.'
The bow, he said, was a 'gesture of blasphemous devotion that is the opposite of what is due to the Mother of God.'
In protest, the local commander of the Carabinieri, the Italian military police, and members of his squad who had been accompanying the procession with the statue of Our Lady of Grace left the procession.
Although July and August are the most popular months for the religious processions that remain a key part of annual celebrations in cities, towns and neighbourhoods, Bishop Milito announced that, beginning July 10, all processions would be suspended until diocesan leaders could work out rules and procedures for preventing their abuse.
Bishop Milito said the decision was a call to 'caution and an invitation to reflection and silence' but should not be read as 'a gesture of mistrust or judgment of those who contribute with dedication and righteousness to processions.'
The ritual bow was made in front of the home of Peppe Mazzagatti, 82, sentenced to life in prison, but serving his sentence under house arrest because of ill health. He was convicted in connection with his presumed ties to the 'Ndrangheta, the Calabrian Mafia.
Bishop Milito told SIR, the Italian bishops' news agency, that 'the lack of a correct reaction on the part of participants in the procession, including clergy and people active in the life of the Church,' shows just how 'hardened and dulled' people's consciences are to the evil that is organised crime.
In June, Pope Francis issued a strong condemnation of organised crime groups and said that mafiosi were excommunicated.
After pope's condemnation of mafia, bishop bans processions (Catholic News Service)