Mafia-fighting cardinal dies in Sicily

Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo, the inspirational former archbishop of the Sicilian capital, Palermo, who publicly campaigned against the Mafia for over 25 years, died yesterday at the age of 88.

The Herald-Sun reports that Cardinal Pappalardo was archbishop for more than a quarter of a century before retiring in 1996, and friends said his speeches against organised crime still served as an inspiration on the southern Italian island.

"His efforts against the Mafia, made amid risks and hostility ... were of deep value to the church and to all civil society," Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi told Italy's ANSA news agency.

Cardinal Pappalardo encouraged anti-Mafia priests to speak out and to put their lives on the line, if needed.

At the funeral of an anti-Mafia Palermo Prefect killed in an ambush in 1982, Cardinal Pappalardo accused the central government in Rome of looking the other way while the Mafia dominated.

"His words against the Mafia are still alive and have compelled so many Sicilians," Cardinal Pio Laghi told ANSA. "It is a loss for us."

A spokesman at the Archdiocese in Palermo said Cardinal Pappalardo died of natural causes, but declined to offer details.

Cardinal Pappalardo's straight talk had once forced him and others to live what Italians call "an armour-plated life" made up of police escorts and bulletproof cars.

Police in April captured Bernardo Provenzano, the undisputed chief of the Sicilian Mafia, after four decades on the run.

They had followed a package of clean laundry sent by his wife to a farmhouse outside his Sicilian hometown of Corleone, made famous by the Godfather films.

Cardinal Pappalardo, commenting about Provenzano's capture in an April newspaper interview, said it gave Sicilians a reason to be hopeful about the future. But it was also a reminder of how many people had knowingly helped him evade capture over the years.

"Evidently there were so many that supported him," Cardinal Pappalardo had told the newspaper, La Repubblica.

"At least for a little while that protection was slackened."

Anti-Mafia cardinal dies (Herald-Sun, 12/12/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Cardinal Salvatore Pappalardo (Cardinal Rating)
Mafia (Wikipedia)

Pope's speech inspires Mafia boss to turn himself in (CathNews, 18/11/02)

12 Dec 2006