Relic of martyr killed by Mafia to be used in prison ministry in Naples

Blessed Rosario Livatino. / Credit: Episcopal Conference of Sicily

Rome Newsroom, Feb 29, 2024 / 09:15 am (CNA).

The relics of Blessed Rosario Livatino, a Catholic judge brutally killed by the Mafia in 1990, will be brought to a prison in Naples on Saturday as his relics tour the southern Italian city plagued by organized crime.

The Archdiocese of Naples has organized a prayer campaign from March 1–4 across schools, prisons, and churches with the relics of Livatino, who was beatified in Sicily in 2021.

Father Vittorio Sommella, the rector of the Cathedral of Naples, has expressed hope that young people in the city in particular will be touched by Livatino’s witness.

“In a city where more and more young people are warring against young people at gunpoint, the example of Judge Rosario [Livatino] spurs us to do more,” Sommella told the Italian newspaper Il Mattino. 

The Mafia in Naples, called the Camorra, is known for loan sharking in poor neighborhoods and extorting local businesses in addition to drug trafficking, counterfeiting, and money laundering.

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples has frequently spoken out against the Mafia, condemning Naples’ “cancerous Mafia culture” and “the trail of blood” it has left across the city.

“With the arrival of Blessed Livatino’s relic, Naples welcomes yet another message of hope and the rule of law,” Sommella said.

He inspires us “to commit ourselves as a Church and as a civil society to rediscover the values of lawfulness and justice,” he added.

Livatino worked as a prosecutor in Sicily dealing with the criminal activity of the Mafia throughout the 1980s. He confronted what Italians later called the “Tangentopoli,” the corrupt system of Mafia bribes and kickbacks given for public works contracts.

At the age of 37, he served as a judge at the Court of Agrigento.

Livatino was driving unescorted toward the Agrigento courthouse when another car hit his vehicle, 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.

Today a plaque on the highway marks the spot where Livatino was killed. It reads: “Martyr of justice.” Pope Francis elevated this title in 2020 when he recognized the judge as a martyr killed “in hatred of the faith.”

Livatino’s relics will arrive in the Naples Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary on Friday morning. Cardinal Angelo Comastri will then lead local lawyers and judges in the Stations of the Cross in the presence of his relics in the cathedral in the evening.

The relics will be brought to the Giuseppe Salvia Penitentiary on Saturday morning for a prayer service with the inmates as well as to a juvenile detention center. 

Families of victims of violent crime will also have a chance to pray with the relics in the cathedral during the weekend. 

Livatino is buried in the cemetery chapel of his hometown of Canicattì, Sicily.

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