No More Religious Processions in Calabria, After Unscheduled Mafia Salute


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.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Colin Kerr

    excellent bishop

  • WolfBoy

    I can only hope for the day when genuflecting towards state and military officials, national flags and the like will evoke the same criticism. Especially in America…

  • BTP

    But this does give an indication of how thoroughly corrupted the locals have become. Perhaps, more accurately, how thoroughly the Mafia have corrupted the local people.

    • irena mangone

      Especially from generation to generation. Time to stop

  • Richard Bosco

    Why doesn’t the Pope and the Bishops excommunicate those that kill innocent babies from the Catholic Church. These mobsters are no different then our Catholic politicians. Why doesn’t the Pope and the bishops excommunicate them?

    • chardin

      Because they excommunicate themselves

    • Bil Carter

      As Chardin said…those who commit abortion or who provide assistance to those who commit abortion automatically incur excommunication latae sententiae. That is, by the very act of doing it, excommunication happens.

  • Howard

    I hope the bishop inquires into who planned this deviation.

    • Bil Carter

      The bishop should suspend the clerical faculties of all participating priests until they meet with him.

      • Howard

        No, I think he’s doing this the right way. I am not really sure the priests were in on this, nor if they joined the crowd in bowing to the house. I’m not even sure if the route of the procession was changed, which would have been a giveaway that something weird was happening. All this must be cleared up. In the mean time, suspending processions seems to be a proportionate response.

        • Bil Carter

          I’m sure the priests were not in on it, but they certainly demonstrated a lack of courage. If you want to be a priest in Calabria, that’s what it’s going to take. The bishop needs to explain to his priests that they aren’t chaplains in a university youth group, they are front line soldiers of Christ that will often find themselves nose to nose with the enemy. More than ever, Europe needs a demonstration of courage from its priests. This was a chance to do that, and they failed.

          The priests should have admonished the people right on the spot and condemned them for venerating a criminal.

  • I_M_Forman

    Good move. Was waiting for a response to this kind of defiance.

  • irena mangone

    Makes one wonder about those priests. And the people. Were they scared. Of the mafia but not of. Offending God and Our blessed mother

  • tj.nelson

    Traditionally in Latin countries processions brought an increase of donations to the local church. Mafia families made generous contributions as well. Calling off the processions seems to me to be a very good reform.