Italy celebrates the beatification of a judge, who was shot dead by the mafia in his car, at one last stage before he was awarded the title of sainthood.
The Catholic Church, Rosario Levatino, was canonized at a mass in Argiento, Sicily, on Sunday, 28 years after the day after he was declared martyr.
Pope John Paul II declared this in 1993, and famously condemned the mafia.
Levatino was running a mass trial against Mafia members at the time of his murder.
Later, Pope Francis said at a ceremony held in the Vatican, “In his service to the public good, as an exemplary judge, he never succumbed to corruption … he placed his work under the protection of God.”
Levatino was now called “the Blessed.” Beatification is the last step in becoming a saint.
Levatino has worked on a number of cases involving corruption in the local port and forged public contracts. He was a devout Catholic who prayed in church every day before going to work.
On September 21, 1990, members of a mafia splinter group, the Steda, shot his Ford Fiesta as he was going to court. He had refused protection and was found in a roadside ditch a few miles from his home.
Levatinos blood-stained shirt was displayed as a trail of him in the cathedral in Argiento, during the beatification ceremony on Sunday.
His killers were later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1993, John Paul II visited his parents and made a direct appeal to members of the mafia. He said at the time, “Change .. God’s judgment is coming.”
‘Decades of silence and complicity’
But Professor John Dickey, author of the book “Cosa Nostra” on the history of the Sicilian Mafia, told the BBC that the Catholic Church had “some torment of conscience” towards the mafia. He explained that the words of Pope John Paul II came after “decades and decades of silence and complicity.”
“With the end of the Cold War and with the escalation of violence by the Sicilian Mafia, the Church finally began to treat the threat of the mafia seriously, and not consider it as a secondary issue compared to the threat of communism,” he said.
And in January of this year, Italy began its largest organized crime trial in decades.
Some 355 mafia members and corrupt officials have been charged after a lengthy investigation into Ndrangheta, the most powerful mafia group in the country. It is expected to take more than two years.