VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI spent Sunday (Oct. 3) in the heartland of the Sicilian Mafia, denouncing organized crime and paying tribute to those slain in the long struggle against the mob.
“Don’t give in to the temptations of the Mafia, which is a path of death, incompatible with the gospel,” Benedict said Sunday evening to a gathering of young people in the Sicilian capital of Palermo.
Earlier, in his sermon at an outdoor Mass celebrated before some 200,000 people, the pope urged Sicilians to persevere in their war against organized crime.
“The tendency to discouragement, to resignation, comes to one who is weak in faith, who confuses evil with good, who thinks that in the face of often profound evil there is nothing to do,” Benedict said.
In an afternoon speech to priests in the Palermo cathedral, the pope commemorated the “barbarous murder” of the Rev. Giuseppe Puglisi, who was killed in 1993 for preaching against the Mafia in the city’s slums.
The pope’s words were notably more restrained than the angry anti-Mafia speech delivered by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, on a visit in 1993.
On his way to the airport en route back to Rome, Benedict stopped at the site of the murder of the anti-Mafia prosecutor Giovanni Falcone, who along with his colleague Paolo Borsellino, was killed in separate bomb attacks in 1992.
Benedict placed a bouquet of flowers at the site of Falcone’s death, and prayed briefly in silence before moving on.