An archbishop in Sicily has moved to reclaim the term “godfather” from the mafia - by banning gangsters from taking the role at baptisms.
Michele Pennisi, a vocal mafia critic, has his diocese in Monreale, near Palermo. He said he wanted to challenge the idea that crime bosses have a paternal side. “The mafia has always taken the term godfather from the Church to give its bosses an air of religious respectability,” he told AFP.
“Whereas in fact, the two worlds are completely incompatible.” Archbishop Pennisi’s diocese includes the notorious village of Corleone, a vendetta-torn enclave made famous by Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather.
The cleric last made headlines in February by condemning a Corleone priest’s decision to let the son of an infamous mobster, Toto Riina, become his niece’s godfather.
The row gave rise to his latest decree, which bans anyone convicted of “dishonorable crimes” from acting as a godparent.
Archbishop Pennisi admits that the mafia culture of “omerta” - the law of silence - will make the ruling harder to enforce.
“If someone has not been convicted we cannot judge people on rumours, without proof,” he said.
He added that the path to reformation is open for mobsters, as for others.