An Archbishop in the autonomous Italian island of Sicily has banned Members of the notorious Mafia from being godfathers at baptisms.
Archbishop Michele Pennisi of the diocese of Monreale, an outspoken critic of the Mafia crime organizations said he intended to contest the notion that gang bosses possessed a paternal character.
In an interview with AFP, he said, “The mafia has always taken the term godfather from the Church to give its bosses an air of religious respectability. Whereas in fact, the two worlds are completely incompatible,” he told AFP.
The mafiosi infested town of Corleone is part of the diocese of Monreal, near Palermo. Corleone was made famous by Mario Puzo’s novel “The Godfather”, which was made into a movie series starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino.
Pennisi gained the spotlight in February when he denounced a Corleone priest for allowing the son of infamous Mafioso, Toto Riina, to stand as godfather at his niece’s baptism.
The event sparked his decision to ban those who are convicted of “dishonorable crimes” from becoming a godparent.
However, the Archbishop is aware of the difficulty of enforcing the decree, due to the mafia ethos of “omerta”, or the “law of silence.”
He admitted, “If someone has not been convicted we cannot judge people on rumors, without proof.”
Nevertheless, he adds that the Church is open to all who seek reformation, including criminals.
“If one of them admits to having done wrong, asks to be pardoned for the bad they have done – in that case we can discuss a path of conversion,” Pennisi states.
The cleric received death threats when he turned down a religious memorial service for mafia clan boss, Crocefisso Emanuello in 2008, hence he was provided police protection.
Pope Francis’ effort against mobsters was more extreme – he excommunicated all Mafiosi in 2014. An excommunication means banishment from the Roman Catholic Church.
He proclaimed: “Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God.”