Padre Pino Puglisi was not only a simple church minister. He was also a spiritual leader fighting against the Sicilian mob system
Who was Padre Pino Puglisi?
Padre Pino Puglisi, also known as 3P, is one of the most popular innocent victims of Mafia. He was born in 1937 in Brancaccio, a neighbourhood in Palermo, and grew up in a poor family. At the age of 16, he decided to go into the seminary to follow his own vocation of becoming a priest.
Despite this, he was not only a simple church minister. He was a spiritual leader and a teacher, but also one of the few who had the courage to fight the criminal system rooted in Sicily. For this very reason, in 1993 he was brutally murdered by a mob hit man on the front door of his house. His last words to his killer were “I expected it”.
What has he done?
In 1991, Padre Pino Puglisi established the ‘Centro Padre Nostro’, where he looked after many children who lived in precarious conditions, taking them away from the street. And that was the real danger Padre Puglisi represented at the eyes of the criminals, as he was impeding the Mafia to nurture a breeding ground for its future members. Indeed, the kids of poor families, especially in the neighbourhood of Brancaccio, grow up in a very unstable social environment, where — owing to several reasons — the Mafia often represents the only forced opportunity for the future of many.
Why did the Mafia feared Don Puglisi?
Don Puglisi knew perfectly how the criminal system worked and, for this reason, he dedicated a great piece of his existence to fight against the unwritten rules of those places, so as to free ‘his guys’ from a harsh future.
Indeed, he was used to acting according to a life rule which was antithetical to that proposed by local crime, based on the so-called ‘law of the strongest’. In other words, Padre Pino Puglisi undermined the foundations of the mob culture by offering to hundreds of children a new lifestyle on the basis of a mutually beneficial form of social cooperation.
Don Puglisi thus gave us an incredible example of what is necessary to neutralize the threats of a deeply rooted criminal system, and not only that. For instance, he also left a wonderful memory in the hearts of those people who have been that lucky to meet him, the memory of a person who indistinctly devoted attention to anyone who needed it.
What’s changed since then?
Obviously, the Mafia hasn’t disappeared and continues to operate both in Italy and abroad. However, what’s changed is the more widespread sensitivity towards this theme, especially thanks to the increasing efforts of a number of associations that try to fight it day by day.
One of these organizations is Libera, founded in 1995 — only two years after the assassination of Padre Pino Puglisi — by Don Ciotti, another priest particularly active in the war against mob abuses.
The main goal of this association is that of soliciting a reaction of civil society against the Mafia, but also that of fostering local communities alternative to those controlled by the criminals in high-risk places, mainly in southern Italy. Among the various purposes Libera has set for its activities, there are the social exploitation of all the lands confiscated from the Mafia, a well promoted education to legal democracy, the several projects about work and social development, and the fight against corruption.
We cannot say with absolute certainty whether the Mafia will ever disappear. However, what we can undoubtedly affirm is that, in the words of Padre Pino Puglisi, “if everyone does something, then we can do a lot.”