Sicilian judge killed by mafia is one step closer to sainthood

Almost three decades after being declared a martyr by Pope John Paul II, an Italian judge murdered by the mafia in Sicily took a step closer to sainthood on Sunday.

The beatification of Rosario Livatino will take place in the cathedral in Agrigento, the Sicilian town near where he was shot on September 21, 1990 at age 38.

In a preface to a new book about the judge, Pope Francis talked about Livatino stating that he was a “righteous man who knew he did not deserve that unjust death”.

Judge Rosario Livatino was involved in a mass trial against the mafia and was about to launch a new case when he was murdered. He was found in a ditch by the roadside a few miles from his residence, where he had refused armed protection prior to the incident.

Many of his notes were later found to be marked STD, for “sub tutela Dei”, a Latin invocation meaning “under the protection of God” which judges of the Middle Ages used before taking official decisions, according to VOA News.

The notes also showed he asked God’s forgiveness for the risks his work exposed his parents to, once he learned that the bosses of the Cosa Nostra had him in their sights.

When John Paul II visited Livatino’s parents in 1993, he said the former judge was “a martyr for justice and indirectly for the faith”.

Under Church law, if martyrdom is established, then beatification — the penultimate accolade before canonization — moves ahead quickly without the proof of miracles required of other candidates for sainthood.

The two mafia members who killed Livatino, identified by a man who drove past at the moment of the crime, were convicted and given life sentences.

Livatino was one of the first investigating magistrates in Italy who moved to seize assets belonging to the mafia, according to Luigi Ciotti, a priest known for taking on organized crime himself.

“He understood that would lead to a weakening of the clans, their loss of control and also of social control,” Ciotti wrote in another biography of the Livatino.

Today, a cooperative of young people bears Livatino’s name 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 killed by the Italian mob in an infamous slaying.

Since he was elected Pope in 2013, Francis has spoken out consistently against organized crime groups.

In an open-air mass in Sicily in September 2018, during a trip to honor a priest killed by the mafia 25 years earlier, the Argentine pontiff condemned those who belong to the mafia as “blasphemous”.

“You can’t believe in God and belong to the mafia,” he most-notably said.

His impassioned plea echoed the words of John Paul II who, during his May 1993 trip to the island, had also called on mobsters to abandon crime, and urged Sicilians to revolt against the mafia.


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