There will be no more religious processions in the southern Italian region of Calabria, after hundreds of people defied Pope Francis by making an unscheduled stop during a Marian procession to bow in front of the home of a Mafia godfather.
According to The Tablet,
Bishop Francesco Milito of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi said that those who bowed outside the house of Giuseppe Mazzagatti, an 82-year-old convicted murderer whose clan fed a man alive to pigs, “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.”
Thirty men had carried a large statue of the Virgin Mary through the streets of Calabria, accompanied by hundreds of the faithful. When the crowd paused and bowed in front of the Mazzagatti home, the local commander of the Carabinieri, the Italian military police, and members of his squad protested the action by walking away, leaving the pilgrimage without police protection.
Archbishop Salvatore Nunnari of Cosenza, head of the Calabrian church, expressed regret that the local clergy had not had “the courage” to do the same. According to The Guardian: “When the Carabinieri left, the priests should have fled the procession,” he told Italian news agency Ansa. “They would have sent a signal and we need these signals.”
* * * * *
In June, Pope Francis celebrated Mass on the feast of Corpus Domini in Calabria, a Mafia stronghold in southern Italy. During his homily, the pontiff announced that members of the Mafia are excommunicated due to their lifestyle of violence. “Those who in their lives have taken this evil road,” he said, “this road of evil, such as the mobsters, they are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated.”
July and August are typically popular months for processions in Italy. For now, however, Bishop Milito has suspended all processions until diocesan leaders can work out rules and procedures for preventing their abuse.