A Sicilian judge has handed down 80-year prison terms to 39 people for diverting a Good Friday religious procession into the home of a mafia family and honoring an imprisoned crime boss.
People were carrying a statue of Jesus Christ through the Sicilian village of San Michele di Ganzaria on Easter 2016 when a group stopped the procession, taking it off the agreed flight path and forcing it to pass in front of the home of Mafia godfather Francesco. La Roca.
La Roca was serving a life sentence at the time for mafia-related offenses, but his wife ran out of the house to greet the welfare workers and put on a show.
The mayor and priest of San Michele de Ganzaria refused to follow the procession away from its official route and denounced those responsible for its diversion.
The Archbishop of Sicily said he hoped it would deter others from doing anything similar in the future.
“God or his name should never be invoked, it is certainly not on the side of the mafia, who are violent and violent men,” said the Archbishop of Catania, Luigi Reina, in a statement.
The group was found guilty of disturbing a religious event and incitement to commit crimes. The eight ringleaders were sentenced to three years in prison, and the others were sentenced to between six months, two years and nine months in prison.
“This sentence will certainly make people suffer,” said the archbishop, “but I hope that the suffering will bear fruit.”
This wasn’t the first time a religious procession had stopped outside the mafia boss’ house. religion It has always been at the center of organized crime in Italy. The Camorra prays to Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, for help and in Palermo, Reggio Calabria and Naples, it has become customary to stop religious processions outside the homes of chiefs to honor them. Many gangsters see themselves as part of a cult-like religious group, and enlist the help of the Saints. Religious statues are often made to bow in honor of mafia bosses despite efforts by authorities to stop the practice.
In 2014, Francesco Milito, the Bishop of Obido Mamertina Palme, in Calabria, banned religious processions after a statue of the Virgin Mary was used to honor a notorious criminal boss.
early in the papacy, Pope Francis These practices have been described as “perverted spirituality” and in 2020 at the Pontifical International Marian Academy Set up Oath “to free Mary from the mafia and from criminal authorities.”
In 2010, ‘Ndrangheta leaders retaliated against church officials for their exclusion from the annual Easter procession in Sant’Onofrio, Calabria, by opening fire on a former home in a drive-by shooting.
Reuters contributed to this report
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