Sicily celebrated the beatification of Father Giuseppe Puglisi yesterday, and Pope Francis used it as an occasion to pray for the conversion of the Mafia.
After he recited the Angelus on May 25, Pope Francis noted that Fr. Puglisi – a priest who was killed in 1993 by the Mafia – was beatified in Palermo on Saturday.
“Don Puglisi was an exemplary priest, devoted especially to youth ministry. He was teaching children according to the gospel and taking them out of the mob, and so they tried to defeat him and killed him. In reality, though, it is he that won, with Christ Risen,” the Pope told the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.
These gangs “cause so much pain to men, women and even to children,” he said, mentioning prostitution as one type of slavery or social pressure used by the mafia.
Pope Francis urged the faithful in the square to “pray for these gangsters so that they convert.”
The murder of Fr. Puglisi was a turning point for the Church in how it dealt with the Mafia.
Blessed Puglisi pursued a course of winning people away from the influence of the mob, as opposed to a protest model of resistance, which was more common among clergy at the time.
Shocked by his death and inspired by his example, many of Sicily’s priests began to follow the more influence-driven approach of Bl. Puglisi.
“We praise God for his luminous testimony,” Pope Francis said after the Angelus, “and we treasure his example!”