“What’s important is to encounter God, to live like Him, to proclaim His Love that saves,” said Italian priest and martyr, Father Giuseppe Puglisi (1937-1993), born 80 years ago and killed on the day of his birth, September 15, 56 years later, recalled L’Osservatore Romano in Italian on September 14, 2017.
Beatified on May 25, 2013 as the first martyr of the Church killed by the Italian mafia, he “preached love in lands controlled by organized crime,” stated the Vatican’s daily, “and unmasked the horror, the lies and blasphemies hidden behind the mafia’s code of honor.”
“Twenty, sixty, one hundred years of life, of what use is it if one is mistaken in its direction?” asked Father Puglisi. And he pointed out the only sure direction: towards God and towards the poor.
During an intervention at Trento in 1991, Father Pino, as he was usually known, said: “If we want to be disciples of Jesus, we must become witnesses of the Resurrection.” And he added: “From witness to martyrdom the step is brief and it is what, in fact, gives value to the witness.”
This Sicilian priest was shot in the neck in front of his house, Anita Garibaldi Square, in Palermo’s neighborhood of Brancaccio. He had become a “thorn in the side” of the mafia system, as one of his killers avowed, because he “preached and took children off the street.”
“Father Puglisi was an exemplary priest, especially devoted to the pastoral care of young people,” said Pope Francis, recalling his beatification in May of 2013. By educating adolescents according to the Gospel, he extricated them from the milieu and thus the latter sought a way to overcome him by killing him. But, in reality, he was the one who overcame thanks to the Risen Christ.”
The words spoken by Popes on the mafia have always been very clear, notes L’Osservatore Romano: men who “live of criminal actions and violence” are not in communion with God and, therefore, “excommunicated,” said Pope Francis on June 21, 2014 at Sibari. “Repent! One day God’s Judgment will come!” urged Pope John Paul II on May 9, 1993 at Agrigento.
Last July 19, Pope Francis exhorted prayer “for all the victims of the mafias” and to ask for “the strength to go on, to continue to fight against corruption,” in a Tweet published only in Italian, for the 25th anniversary of the murder of anti-mafia Judge Paolo Borsellino.
The Vatican reiterated “the moral obligation” to fight corruption in a document dated July 31, 2017, of the International Consultation Group for Justice, Corruption, Organized Crime and Mafias (ICG).