Calabrian mobsters have challenged Pope Francis after his words that the mafia members are “not in communion with God” and “are excommunicated” during his June visit there.
In the Calabrian town of Oppido Mamertina, July 2, a procession’s course was diverted for the Madonna being carried to instead pay homage to an infamous mob boss. This was reported by police who saw what was happening and turned away.
An anti-Mafia prosecutor in Calabria, Nicola Gratteri, told the Associated Press that this act “could be seen as a challenge to Pope Francis.”
During the procession, the route was diverted to instead pass in front of the home of mob boss, Peppe Mazzagatti, leader of the infamous, Calabrian-centered criminal organization “N’drangheta.” The town of Oppido Mamertina is a stronghold of this group, involved in drug trafficking, weapons and prostitution. Due to his advanced age of 82, he is serving his prison sentence, for murder, at home.
The statue of Mary was made to bow before the mafia leader.
“The act was repugnant,” said a representative from Italy’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, adding she congratulates the police officers who realized what was happening, and then left the procession.
Yet, Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all’Jonio made it clear when speaking to Italian news agency ANSA that it was not the Madonna doing the bowing, paying reverence to the Mob boss, rather the wrongdoers carrying her, trying to make a point.
To Vatican Radio, Archbishop Giancarlo Bregantini of Campobasso-Bojano, where the Pope visited Saturday, said 200 Calabrian prisoners didn’t go to Mass because they felt it doesn’t make sense if they’re “excommunicated.”
Clearly the consciences of the prisoners, many serving for mafia crimes, have been greatly “affected,” he said. In response, the prelate noted, the prison’s chaplain asked him to speak to the inmates about Francis’ strong words. (D.C.L.)