Palermo, Italy, Mar 22, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News) – Hollywood precedent notwithstanding, an Italian bishop has announced that known members of the mafia cannot be godparents for the Catholic sacraments of baptism or confirmation.
The diocesan decree came from Michele Pennisi, Bishop of Monreale, near Palermo in Sicily, Italy.
“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,” the bishop said in the announcement.
He admitted that it may be hard to enforce, given the secrecy of the mafia, the Guardian reported.
“If someone has not been convicted we cannot judge people on rumours, without proof,” he said, adding that he would not ban anyone willing to repent of their actions.
“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 has been outspoken against the mafia before, and received death threats in 2008 after he banned Catholic funerals for known mobsters.
According to Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, Bishop Pennisi made the decision after Giuseppe Riina, son of the notorious “boss of bosses” ‘Toto’ Riina, was allowed to act as a godfather at the Catholic baptism of his nephew.
“But the Christian godfather must guarantee the child’s education and upbringing in the faith and how can he do that if his life is in contradiction of the gospel, if it is violent and totally ruled by the god money. There is a total incompatibility here and we’ve got to be clear about that…” Bishop Pennisi said.
The move is just the latest in attempts by Church authorities to crack down on the notorious and influential groups in the country.
In 2014, Pope Francis said that members of one of the most notorious mafia groups, the “’nDrangheta” were excommunicated from the Church.
“The ‘nDrangheta represents the adoration of evil and total contempt for the common good…Those who in their lives have chosen this path of evil are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated…” he said at the time, according to the Irish Times.
This year, on March 21, Italy’s first “National Day for Remembrance and Commitment to Remembering the Victims of the Mafia”, Pope Francis sent a message to Mafia victims gathered in Locri, Italy, expressing his “spiritual closeness” to them.
The Holy Father said that he “hopes that the meeting will help to reflect on the causes of the numerous violations of law and legality, which in many cases lead to violence and criminal offenses.”
Pope Francis also assured his prayers for those who “fight the social problem of crime and corruption” and offered his apostolic blessing.