Italian Catholic Church scrambles to explain its role in lavish Mafia boss funeral

ROME (RNS) Italy reacted with disgust to the lavish funeral procession held for alleged Mafia boss Vittorio Casamonica, including a gilded horse-drawn carriage procession, rose petals dropped from a helicopter, and the “Godfather” movie soundtrack.

Now the Roman Catholic Church is grappling with its role in the extravagant funeral as it wrestles with how it might continue to offer the sacraments to members of crime syndicates without appearing to condone their lifestyles.

During the funeral, the walls of Rome’s San Giovanni Bosco Catholic Church were adorned with posters, reading “King of Rome” and “You have conquered Rome, now you will conquer heaven.”

In the days following the funeral, the church tried to distance itself from the elaborately orchestrated spectacle, with Auxiliary Bishop Giuseppe Mariante stating church officials did not know the ceremony would be accompanied by “Mafia propaganda.”

“Of course, if we had had the suspicion of a show of this type, we would have taken precautions,” Mariante was quoted as saying in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper. “We absolutely would not have accepted conducting that funeral.”

The church does not deny last rites, including Communion, to Mafia members or other criminals if requested by relatives, said Bishop Vincenzo Bertolone of Catanzaro-Squillace in Italy’s southern Calabria region, the heartland of the powerful ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

“But the directions for the ceremony ask that it is done in a simple way, without pomp, nor flowers, nor music, nor songs, nor beatifying commemorations,” Bertolone added.

Giancarlo Maria Bregantini, who for 13 years was bishop of Calabria’s Locri-Gerace Diocese, said that in his experience in southern Italy, Mafia bosses use funerals and processions to assert themselves and impose their power.

“In this sense the Church in Calabria has suffered and now has a lot to teach other churches,” he said.

Pope Francis has taken a strong line against the Mafia. During a visit to Calabria last year, he lambasted the Mafia for its “adoration of evil” and said mobsters had excommunicated themselves.

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22 thoughts on “Italian Catholic Church scrambles to explain its role in lavish Mafia boss funeral


  1. During the funeral, the walls of Rome’s San Giovanni Bosco Catholic Church were adorned with posters, reading “King of Rome” and “You have conquered Rome, now you will conquer heaven.”

    I think the caretaker of the church needed to rip these posters down pronto. Statements to challenge God are ignorant and don’t belong on a church.

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  2. A large donation to the Church would once have meant a lenient eye. Change is taking place. Although this happened, it was not condoned.

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    • Oh please all that’s happened is the Church is trying to cover up after some bad PR. Actual change to business as usual – none.

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      • So you don’t believe, Bubba, that Francis has succeeded in bringing any change?

        I am not R.C., but believe Vatican II and the installation of Francis were two remarkable and wonderful things for not only the RC world, but for much more.

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      • Hey Strewth

        I’m having trouble seeing the actual changes – some fantastic PR yep but actual changes look pretty thin on the ground. Off the top of your head how many can you list ?

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      • PR, granted. Where can he get without that?

        He Criticized the ‘Cult of Money’ Driving the World Financial System

        He’s Not Afraid to Criticize the Church ..
        . Or to Change Its Structure and Leadership .
        ..
        Vatican Bank Looks to Shed Its Image as an Offshore Haven

        He Endorsed the ‘State of Palestine’

        He Could Change the Church’s Stance on Divorce

        He Is Holding Bishops More Accountable for Sex Abuse

        He Is Reviving Liberation Theology

        He Is Pushing for Action on Climate Change

        http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/06/13/world/europe/francis-the-activist-pope.html

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      • Hey Strewth

        So that’s no actual real change then. None, nil, nada, nothing.

        The Vatican is still rich, the Church is still using it’s financial clout to put the victims of abuse through the legal wringer.

        And I wouldn’t hold my breath for the rest of the pie-in-the-sky promises to come off either.

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      • Or it could be that I’m just not besotted by the Emperor’s new clothes fine as they are said to be.

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      • Well here’s the bit I wrote earlier

        I’m having trouble seeing the actual changes – some fantastic PR yep but actual changes look pretty thin on the ground. Off the top of your head how many can you list ?

        The list seems to = 0 .

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      • For s start…..I think Francis has brought an openness much needed in the Catholic Church. He has got rid of many of the papal trappings, doesn’t even sleep in the papal apartments and eats with the young seminarians. He has rightly proclaimed that child abusers should be brought to justice And his simple gestures of mercy to the “invisible” people of society has given them a voice. Francis has also ordered a worldwide survey of Catholics asking for their views on matters such as single parent families, contraception and gay marriage.
        No changes?

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      • He has said and done a lot of really nice things.

        BUT – consider the recent vote in Ireland – the Church still opposes gay marriage despite the overwhelming yes vote by the people.

        The Church still uses it’s financial clout to put the victims of abuse through the wringer. He’s proposing holding Bishops accountable – by directing the Church provide a full brief to the police or other prosecuting authorities – NOPE. By directing that the Church provide fulsome reparation to the victims – NOPE. By creating a tribunal, wow what do you get a holiday in Rome and a taking to that’s gonna show em.

        While he’s talking about these invisible people one of his Bishops in the sates was turning the sprinklers on them. And that Bishop was then sanctioned how ???

        The Bishop of bling now in Rome with a cushy little job created just for him.

        Even in your little paragraph you have listed some very nice things that the Pope has done or said.

        and NO ACTUAL CHANGES to the way the Church operates

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      • Hey Bryan,

        In the fullness to time he might go down as the greatest reformer that the Catholic Church has ever seen and his achievements might be lauded for generations to come.

        But right now all he’s done is talk a good game.

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  3. Some points from chapter 2
    of the Pope’s APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION

    I. Some challenges of today’s world

    . In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history, as we can see from the advances being made in so many fields. We can only praise the steps being taken to improve people’s welfare in areas such as health care, education and communications. At the same time we have to remember that the majority of our contemporaries are barely living from day to day, with dire consequences. A number of diseases are spreading. The hearts of many people are gripped by fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries. The joy of living frequently fades, lack of respect for others and violence are on the rise, and inequality is increasingly evident. It is a struggle to live and, often, to live with precious little dignity. This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occuring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power.

    No to an economy of exclusion
    No to the new idolatry of money
    No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
    No to the inequality which spawns violence
    No to a sterile pessimism
    No to warring among ourselves

    Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!

    http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html#I.%E2%80%82Some_challenges_of_today%E2%80%99s_world

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    • Note, he calls such things ‘challenges’. He is not a stage manager who can flick a switch and everything is achieved, any more than the sun suddenly switches itself on each morning. It takes time not only to rise, but to reach its zenith.

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