An Italian judge murdered by the Mafia in Sicily took a step towards holiness on Sunday, nearly three decades after being declared a martyr by Pope John Paul II.
Rosario Livatino was beatified during a mass in the cathedral of Agrigento, the Sicilian city near which he was shot at the age of 38 on September 21, 1990.
A reliquary containing his bloodstained shirt was placed in the cathedral as he was declared “blessed”, while in the Vatican, Pope Francis paid homage to a “martyr for justice and faith”.
“In his service of the common good, as an exemplary judge who has never succumbed to corruption, he sought to judge not to condemn but to redeem,” said the Pope after saying the prayer of Regina Coeli.
“His work placed him firmly under the protection of God. For this reason, he became a witness of the Gospel until his heroic death. “
Livatino, who prayed at church every day before going to court, had been involved in a mass trial against mobsters and was about to launch a new case at his death.
He was found in a roadside ditch a few kilometers from his home. He had refused armed protection.
Many of his notes were later found to be marked STD, for “sub tutela Dei,” a Latin invocation meaning “under the protection of God” that medieval judges used before making official decisions.
The notes also showed that he had asked God for forgiveness for the risks his work posed to his parents, once he learned that the Cosa Nostra bosses had him in their sights.
When John Paul II visited Livatino’s parents in 1993, he declared that the judge was “a martyr for justice and indirectly for the faith”.
According to Church law, if martyrdom is established, then beatification – the penultimate reward before canonization – proceeds rapidly without the proof of miracles required of other candidates for holiness.
The two Mafia members who killed Livatino, identified by a man who drove by at the time of the crime, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
– ‘Blasphemous’ –
Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square, the Pope urged everyone, especially magistrates, to learn from Livatino how to be “staunch defenders of the rule of law and of freedom. “.
Livatino was one of the first investigating judges in Italy to seize assets belonging to the mafia, according to Luigi Ciotti, a priest known for his own fight against organized crime.
“He understood that this would lead to a weakening of the clans, their loss of control and also social control,” Ciotti wrote in another biography of the murdered judge.
Today, a youth cooperative bears the name of Livatino and cultivates land confiscated from the Sicilian mafia.
Less than two years after Livatino’s death, anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were also murdered by the crowd.
Since his election as Pope in 2013, Francis has spoken out against organized crime groups on several occasions.
At an open-air mass in Sicily in September 2018, on a trip in honor of a priest killed by the Mafia 25 years earlier, the Argentine pontiff condemned those who belong to the Mafia as “blasphemous “.
“You cannot believe in God and belong to the Mafia,” he says.
His passionate appeal echoed the words of John Paul II who, during his May 1993 trip to the island, also called on the thugs to give up the crime and urged the Sicilians to revolt against the Mafia.
© 2021 AFP