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In Calabria, church procession takes detour to honor mobster

July 07, 2014

A procession from a Catholic parish church in Calabria, Italy, made an unscheduled stop on July 6 to honor a jailed leader of the ‘Ndrangheta crime family, in defiance of Pope Francis.

During his June visit to the Calabria region, the Pope had denounced organized-crime figures, saying that they had placed themselves outside the Catholic Church. But parishioners in Oppido Mamertina, a town with a history of criminal activity, stopped a procession carrying a statue of the Virgin of Graces outside the home of Peppe Mazzagatti, a ‘Ndrangheta leader who is living under house arrest following a conviction on murder charges.

Three police officers who were accompanying the procession walked away to protest the homage to a convicted criminal. Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano applauded their action, saying that the gesture toward the crime boss was “deplorable and disgusting.”

The mayor of Oppido Mamertina, Domenico Giannetta, said that top civic officials were not involved in planning the gesture, and that if reports of the procession were accurate, "we are the first to condemn it." Bishop Francesco Milito of Oppido Mamertina said that he would take disciplinary action against those responsible for the gesture. He did not specify the nature of the response he was planning. Bishop Nunzio Galantino of nearby Cassano allo Ionio remarked: "The Madonna does not bow to gangsters."


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  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Jul. 07, 2014 6:48 PM ET USA

    This is not good. So the church gave a measure of respect to a gangster and lost three police officers in the process. That's not what I would call a good swap. I hope the archbishop places the clerics on leave and recommends that the Holy Father excommunicate them along with the gangsters. Something is very wrong if this doesn't happen.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Jul. 07, 2014 1:27 PM ET USA

    Almost as serious as the central theme of the article is the revelation that the criminal in question "is living under house arrest following a conviction on murder charges." One wonders what kind of crime might make the Italian justice system actually throw this thug in jail. What does armed robbery get you there, a stern lecture from the judge?