15 September, 2008

Father 3P, fifteen years later

A young Sicilian explains an all too common point of view:

ha fatto di sbagliato che voleva far uscire i ragazzi dalla mafia, in città voleva far stare meglio, non esserci più mafia, però ha sbagliato, si è voluto far ammazzare per questo motivo lui per me se l'è meritato è stato lui a cercarsi la morte

(His mistake was in wanting the boys to leave the Mafia. He wanted to make things better in the city, for there to be no more Mafia, but that was a mistake. He wanted to be killed for this reason. Seems to me he had it coming: he was the one looking for death.)
Fifteen years ago today, on his birthday, Father Giuseppe Puglisi (Padre Pino Puglisi: 3P) was shot in the back of the head by a Mafia hit man. I never heard of him until today, when the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera ran the brief video to which I've linked, and by now it's already off the homepage, what with it no longer being September 15th in Milan. Watching Padre Puglisi speak, I am reminded me of a lot of Italian priests.

The video report describes his work in an area where there was no rule of law, not even a middle school. You might wonder how there could be no middle school in a major neighborhood of a developed European country, but you'd be confusing Sicily with a developed European country. The Italian government has poured billions, probably trillions of dollars into southern Italy, and from the video it looks as if it's a third-world country. That's thanks primarily to the Mafia, who line their pockets with much of the money. In the US, we make a to-do about the Bridge to Nowhere in Alaska; in southern Italy there are many bridges and roads that start in the middle of nowhere and end in the middle of nowhere.

Father Puglisi arranged for children to attend classes, and opened a mission named Padre Nostro (Our Father). The Mafia put up with this for all of nine months. Their first message came in the form of a man who walled the door to the mission with plaster, and left his tools there. Three months later, they had him shot on his doorstep. Keep that in mind the next time you watch The Godfather.

The Italian Wikipedia entry on Puglisi reports that the hitman remembered Puglisi's smile, along with his remark, Me lo aspettavo. (I expected it.) The man was arrested a few years later and turned state's evidence, helping to nail his capimafia, his "godfathers", in American parlance, who are now serving a life sentence.

The Archdiocese of Palermo has begun the process of beatification. Padre Pino, prega per noi.

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