Pope Benedict was in Palermo, Sicily, yesterday, encouraging the locals to resist the evils of the Mafia:
“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 paid tribute to Fr. Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi, who was gunned down in 1993 for preaching against the local mob, and called on the Sicilian priests to follow his example. Supporters of Fr. Puglisi have been asking the Vatican to proclaim him a martyr.
The pope did not directly take on the mobsters, as John Paul II did in 1993. In off-the-cuff remarks, the late pontiff demanded the Mafia “convert from their evil ways or suffer the wrath of God.” He also called clergy to “rally the faithful against organized crime.” A few months later, Fr. Puglisi was killed.
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Pope Benedict focused instead on those who face struggle, threats, and temptation:
“I am here to give you strong encouragement not to be afraid to clearly give witness to human and Christian values,” the pope said. Benedict also urged young people to resist the Mafia and its “path to death.”