Pope tells Sicilians not to fear fighting Mafia
PALERMO, Sicily — Pope Benedict XVI yesterday hailed as a hero a slain priest who dared to challenge the Mafia in its stronghold, and he encouraged Sicilians not to resign themselves to deep-rooted evil on an island where organized crime has held sway for centuries.
“The temptation toward discouragement, to resignation, comes to those who are weak in faith, to those who confuse evil with good, to those who think that, faced with often profound evil, there is nothing to do,’’ Benedict told tens of thousands of faithful at Mass at a sunshine-drenched park alongside Palermo’s waterfront.
The pope later lamented the barbarous 1993 murder of the Rev. Giuseppe “Pino’’ Puglisi, who stirred consciences with his anti-Mafia preaching in one of Palermo’s most heavily mobster-infested poor neighborhoods.
In a speech in Palermo’s cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, Benedict urged priests to keep Puglisi’s memory alive by “imitating his heroic example.’’
Since Puglisi was gunned down by the Mafia, his supporters have been clamoring for the Vatican to officially proclaim him a martyr and so streamline the process that had begun several years ago for beatification and possible sainthood.
Among those recently backing an appeal for the pope to beatify Puglisi were Oscar-winning director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian novelist Dacia Maraini.
But Benedict made no mention of the beatification process or martyrdom, recognition which would eliminate the requirement for a miracle to be attributed to Puglisi’s intercession for beatification.