Bishops defend translation of martyr’s relics amid controversy

Rosario_Livatino.png Rosario Livatino.

The Archbishop of Agrigento and his coadjutor have written a letter to explain why the body of the soon-to-be Blessed Rosario Livatino will be translated from his hometown to the Cathedral of Agrigento.

Some people in the town of Canicattì, Sicily, have resisted the movement of the relics of Livatino, an Italian magistrate who was murdered by the mafia in 1990 at the age of 37.

Pope Francis declared last month that Livatino was a martyr, killed in hatred of the faith. His beatification is expected to be held later this year in the Archdiocese of Agrigento.

An op-ed in a local Sicilian newspaper Jan. 22 referenced a "controversy" on social media over the movement of the martyr's body.

The Archbishop of Agrigento, Cardinal Francesco Montenegro, and his coadjutor Archbishop Alessandro Damiano wrote a letter last week to the community of Canicattì, the town where Livatino was born, to explain why his relics are being transferred to the cathedral.

Canicattì is fewer than 25 miles northeast of Agrigento. It has a population of about 36,000, compared to the 60,000 of Agrigento.

The bishops noted the resistance to the movement of the relics, stating "that the tone and style of the controversy regarding the possible transfer of the mortal remains of Judge Livatino to the cathedral do not suit either the moment (which it should be the occasion for a joy shared with the whole Church) nor to the circumstance (given the typically ecclesial nature of the question)."

"Certainly, they do not honor the memory of the Servant of God nor give a good witness to those who, in many parts of Italy and the world, have their eyes on us in view of his beatification," they said.

Montenegro and Damiano explained that Livatino's holiness "is rooted in its original context, but goes beyond the confines of a circumscribed place to take on much larger dimensions."

They noted that the martyr's own life extended beyond his hometown, since he worked first in the Court of Caltanissetta and then in the Court of Agrigento.

They called him an "unprecedented model of holiness" in the history of the Church, because he will be the first lay magistrate "engaged on the frontline in the fight against the Mafia, to be proclaimed 'blessed' and martyr."

"Moreover," they said, Livatino lived "in a historical period of Italy, Europe and the world particularly characterized by a deep crisis of values, of consciences, of institutions."

These are the reasons why Livatino's burial in Agrigento's cathedral basilica -- "recognized by ecclesial tradition as the Mother Church of the diocese -- would be desirable and preferable, given that the recognized holiness of the baptized becomes a gift for the whole Church, both particular and universal," their letter stated.

Livatino had strong convictions about his vocation within the legal profession. And his commitment to justice was tested at a time when the mafia demanded a weak judiciary in Sicily.

For a decade in the 1980s he worked as a prosecutor dealing with the criminal activity of the mafia, confronting what Italians later called the "Tangentopoli," or the corrupt system of mafia bribes and kickbacks given for public works contracts.

Livatino went on to serve as a judge at the Court of Agrigento in 1989. He was driving unescorted toward the Agrigento courthouse when another car hit him, sending him off the road. He ran from the crashed vehicle into a field, but was shot in the back and then killed with more gunshots.

"He embodied the beatitude of those who hunger and thirst for justice and are persecuted for it," Cardinal Montenegro said last month when Livatino's impending beatification was announced.

More in Europe

The young prosecutor and magistrate was characterized "by a very high moral caliber" and a "strong sense of duty," the archbishop said.

He said, "constant prayer and daily participation in the Eucharistic mystery, together with solid Christian education, received in the family and corroborated by assiduous meditation on the Word of God and the Magisterium of the Church, made him an authentic prophet of justice and a credible witness of faith."

Livatino "consecrated himself sub Guardia Dei to restore dignity to a territory wounded by the Mafia mentality and practice, announcing the Gospel through the fight against injustice, the fight against corruption, and the promotion of the good of the person and the community," Montenegro said.

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.