Rome, Italy, Aug 20, 2013 / 04:10 pm (CNA).- A priest in southern Italy believes that local mafia members may be behind a recent attack on his parish after he preached critically about them and called them to conversion.
According to the Italian daily Avvenire, Father Stefano Giaquinto – pastor of Saint Mary of the Victory in Casagiove – was surprised on the night of Aug. 15 by a fire at the “Nazarene” parish center, a clinic for drug rehabilitation which he founded and directs.
The fire took place days after the priest had denounced the mafia of the region from the altar, describing them as “the cancer of our land.”
“I can name names,” Fr. Giaquinto had said. “I believe in a Church that denounces in order to proclaim.”
“I continue on my path, I will not stop. I am just a priest, not a hero. And my doors are open to all, to them as well. But this land needs to change,” he posted on his Facebook page.
The priest is regularly the target of threats, but has rejected bodyguards, even though mafia members have entered his church with weapons.
The fire last Thursday was not the first time his parish center has come under attack. Two months ago, intruders also set fire to some parts of the center and damaged a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Each Sunday, Fr. Giaquinto celebrates five Masses, and last Sunday more than 1,000 people took part in a Mass for the feast of the Assumption celebrated in the town square.
During his meetings with young people participating in different parish activities, he offers a reminder of the words of Pope Francis: “Do not allow others to rob you of hope.”
“My social commitment is daily, it’s nothing special,” the priest said. “It is based on the noble Christian values instilled in me by my family. A simple family.”
Fr. Giaquinto said he would continue to openly fight against the mafia and call on them to lay down their weapons and convert their hearts to God.