The bishop of the Calabrian town where a statue of the Virgin Mary was made to “bow” before a mob boss has suspended all processions in the area.
Bishop Francesco Milito’s decision to suspend such events in the Calabrian diocese of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi is “a strong and definitive action on the matter,” said the diocesan vicar general, Monsignor Joseph Acquaro.
Avvenire reports that the bishop took the step in response to the reaction of the local Mafia to strong words of condemnation from Pope Francis. During his visit to Calabria’s Cassano All’Jonio last month, the Holy Father said Mafiosi “are excommunicated.”
A Marian procession in Oppido Mamertina July 2nd was diverted so the participants could pay homage to an infamous mob boss, Peppe Mazzagatti, leader of the Calabrian-centered criminal organization “N’drangheta.” The procession was made to pass in front of Mazzagatti’s home. Although serving a life sentence for murder, the 82 year old is confined to his home rather than prison on grounds of age.
The statue of the Blessed Virgin was made to bow before the home of the mafia leader, an act which has been referred by an anti-mafia prosecutor in the area as a “challenge to Pope Francis.”
The local Carabinieri, Italy’s military police, saw what was happening and turned away in protest.
The town is a stronghold of the N’drangheta, one of the region’s most famous crime gangs involved in drug trafficking, weapons and prostitution.
Aware that the mafia, especially the “N’drangheta”, uses such processions as a display of power, the bishop decided to suspend the processions.
Gangsters often use the public nature of such events to exhibit their positions within the world of organized crime. Even those carrying statues are strategically placed so they can visibly represent their given mafia “clans.”
Bishop Milito’s decision is also designed to prevent other hostile, perhaps anti-Pope Francis gestures, as well as further unrest in the region.
“The bishop decision is aimed at launching an in-depth reflection on the conduct of the processions after what happened in Oppido Mamertina,” said Monsignor Acquaro. “The decision was greeted with applause by all the priests who agreed with Bishop Milito’s decision,” he added. (D.C.L.)