An Italian bishop has been given an armed escort for the first time in more than 20 years after he defied the Mafia by refusing to celebrate the funeral mass of a Godfather.
Bishop Michele Pennisi, 62, stood his ground against the Cosa Nostra and said that he would not allow the funeral of one of its bosses, Daniele Emmanuello, 43, to take place in his church in Sicily.
Within days of making the ruling he was the target of a poison pen campaign and posters and flyers of him appeared overnight containing threats against him.
Emmanuello, 43, was the Godfather of his family and had been on the run for more than ten years before he was tracked down by police to an isolated country farmhouse at Villarosa near Enna two months ago.
In the shoot-out with police he was gunned down and as he lay dying officers pulled from his throat pizzini, or little notes, that he had used to pass on orders to members of his crime family.
Bishop Pennisi said: "The Lord will protect us and free us from the Mafia and from the pizzo [protection money payments].
"I have been the target of threats and insinuations from the beginning, and I did not wish to respond to and give further ammunition to these people.
"However the police have told me not to underestimate these people and as such I have been assigned protection - I understand the last religious figure to do so was the Bishop of Palermo in 1984.
"The flyers said that I was a servant of the State because I had refused to allow Emmanuello's funeral to take place in my church.
"I believe this was the right decision - my mission is against the Mafia and I have always believed that between the Mafia and Christian values there is no compatibility.
"It is the Christian duty of everyone to fight crime and make these so called men of honour become new people.
"I assured the Emmanuello family of my spiritual help but that I was not going to allow the funeral to take place in the church.''
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
What a bishop is supposed to do...
Kudos to this Italian (Sicilian) bishop for taking a stand. He's putting more than a cosy relationship with certain politicians or his personal comfort on the line: