Mafia member honored in Church service

In apparent defiance of Pope Francis remarks last week, a church procession detoured from its route through a southern Italian town to honor a convicted mobster under house arrest in a festival.

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano on Sunday denounced the tribute in Oppido Mamertina, an area harboring a crime syndicate stronghold, as “deplorable and disgusting.” He praised three Carabinieri policemen who abandoned the procession.

On June 21, Francis had denounced the group for its “adoration of evil” and said all of its members were excommunicated.

The July 2 procession included clergy, the mayor, parents pushing baby strollers, and dozens of local men carrying an ornate Madonna statue on their shoulders.

Carabinieri officer Andrea Marino said he and his fellow officer walked away from the procession after the detour and headed to the church to complain about the incident.

One of Calabria’s anti-Mafia prosecutors, Nicola Gratteri, told The Associated Press about the event that the detour to the mobster’s house appeared to be a “challenge to the diktat” of Francis.

‘Ndrangheta, the name of the group and a global cocaine trafficker, is one of the world’s most powerful crime syndicates. Religious rituals hold an important place in the mobsters’ mentality, being from a traditional part of the country.

Oppido Mamertino’s bishop, Monsignor Francesco Milito, said he would take “measures” against those exploiting the church procession to pay homage to the 82-year-old mob boss.┬áHe is allowed to serve his life sentence at home for murder because of his age.

Elsewhere in southern Italy, other group members appeared to have paid attention to the pope’s words but not in the way he intended.

Another bishop, Monsignor Giancarlo Bregantini, told the Vatican Radio Sunday that 200 inmates in the maximum-security section of Larino prison told their chaplain they would boycott Mass, reasoning if they were excommunicated it made no sense for them to attend anymore.