Pope dismays anti-Mafia activists on Sicily visit with scant mention of crime mob

October 4, 2010

falconePope Benedict said on Sunday the Mafia represented “a path of death” that Sicily’s young should shun but he dismayed activists who said he was too timid and should have given the crime group a moral hammering.

Benedict, making his first visit to Sicily as pope, celebrated an open-air mass for more than 200,000 people near the Sicilian capital’s port and then later addressed a rally of tens of thousands of young people.

(Photo: Pope Benedict at a memorial in Palermo commemorating Italian judge Giovanni Falcone, killed in 1992 by the Mafia, October 3, 2010/Osservatore Romano)

The pope mentioned the Mafia only in that sentence of his two-page speech to the young people, which was centered on family values, and in a speech to bishops in which he mentioned that a priest, Pino Puglisi, had been killed by the mob in 1993.

“While it is good that he used the word, I don’t understand this timid way of approaching the issue,” Rita Borsellino, whose brother Paolo, a leading anti-Mafia magistrate, was killed by a Mafia car bomb in Palermo in 1992, told Reuters. “I was expecting him to develop the theme much more, especially in his address to the young people,” she said.

On a visit to the Sicilian city of Agrigento in 1993, John Paul improvised a scathing, specific attack on the Mafia which has gone down in anti-Mafia history and is etched in the memory of many Sicilians.

Speaking in a raised voice and with a clenched fist, John Paul thundered against Mafiosi, warning them directly that unless they “converted” to good, they would one day be subjected to God’s judgment for their blood letting and misdeeds.

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