It’s long been accused of adopting an at best ambiguous role in the fight against organised crime in Sicily, but the Catholic Church has now taken a symbolic stand against the Mafia in its Palermo heartland by refusing to give sacrament to the son of a notorious Cosa Nostra crime lord.
Despite protests from the boy’s family, Cardinal Paolo Romeo, the Archbishop of Palermo, banned the confirmation of the 17-year-old son of jailed killer Giuseppe Graviano in the city’s famous Norman cathedral at the weekend.
The 17-year-old was due to be confirmed along with 49 other students of a private Jesuit school in Palermo cathedral on Saturday. But the Archbishop ruled that the mobster’s son would have to receive the sacrament in a private ceremony, elsewhere.His decision was particularly significant because the remains of Padre Pino Puglisi, the priest murdered by Graviano and his brother Filippo in 1993, lie in Palermo Cathedral itself. Cardinal Romeo noted that the Graviano family had never shown remorse for the killing of Puglisi, who had campaigned against the Mafia in Palermo’s poor Brancaccio neighbourhood.
The Graviano clan of Palermo is thought to remain one of the richest and most powerful in Cosa Nostra. In the last few years, authorities have seized from them assets worth €60m.
Cardinal Romeo said: “It was the only sensible thing to do. Of course children don’t bear the sins of their fathers. But you have to remember that the Cathedral is the place where Padre Puglisi is buried,” he said. “And we’ve never had any messages of contrition from these people over Padre Puglisi, the first martyr of the Church killed by the Mafia.”
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