By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis has written the preface to a book authored by Vincenzo Bertolone entitled “Rosario Angelo Livatino. Dal ‘martirio a secco’ al martirio di sangue” (roughly translated as “Rosario Angelo Livatino. From ‘dry martyrdom’ to the martyrdom of blood”).
The publication recounts the story of Rosario Angelo Livatino (3 October 1952 – 21 September 1990), an Italian magistrate from Canicatti, Sicily, who was hated “for his Christian and professional consistency” by the “men of the mafia that dominated the Sicilian territory in the eighties.” He was tragically shot in by killers paid by the heads of the Sicilian organized crime groups Stidda and Cosa Nostra.
Servant of God Rosario Angelo Livatino will be beatified on Sunday, 9 May, in the Cathedral of Agrigento, Sicily.
The words of a dying prophet
Pope Francis noted that Livatino’s last words, “Picciotti, che cosa vi ho fatto?” (“Little ones, what have I done to you?”) were the “words of a dying prophet, giving voice to the lament of a righteous man who knew he did not deserve that unjust death.” These were his last words before his “baby Jesus face” – as his friends described it, was disfigured by bullets.
These words, the Pope continued, “cried out against the Herods of our time, those who, not looking innocence in the face, enlist even teenagers to become ruthless killers on missions of death.”
They are also “a cry of pain and at the same time of truth, that with its strength annihilates the mafia armies, revealing the intrinsic denial of the Gospel of the mafias in every form, in spite of the secular display of holy pictures, of sacred statues forced to disrespectful bows, of religiosity flaunted as much as it is denied,” the Pope added.
An example for magistrates, all in the field of law
Recalling his November 2019 address to the members of the “Rosario Livatino” Study Center at the Clementine Hall in the Vatican, the Holy Father reiterated that “Livatino is an example not only for the magistrates, but for all those who work in the field of law: for the consistency between his faith and his commitment to work, and for the relevance of his reflections.”
He stressed that the relevance of Rosario Livatino is surprising because he “grasps the signs of what would have emerged most clearly in the following decades, not only in Italy, that is, the justification of the encroachment of the judge in areas not proper to the role, especially in the areas of so-called ‘new rights’, with judgments that seem to be concerned with fulfilling ever new desires, unencumbered by any objective limit.”
Faith that becomes practice
Pope Francis noted that Livatino had the spiritual characteristic of a “faith that becomes the practice of justice and therefore, does good to others”, as he thought of the best ways to carry out his role as a judge after graduating from studies in law.
The Holy Father highlighted that Livatino suffered “greatly in the criminal judgments against the accused, because he saw how freedom, badly interpreted, had broken the rule of justice”, yet “at the same time, as a Christian, he was faced with the problem of forgiveness.”
He further noted that Livatino performed daily “an act of total and generous entrustment to God” and thus is “a bright point of reference for the men and women of today and tomorrow”, especially for young people who are enticed by the Mafia to a life of violence, corruption, intimidation and death.
“His martyrial testimony of faith and justice is a seed of concord and social peace, and an emblem of the need to feel and be brothers and sisters, and not rivals or enemies,” the Pope wrote in the preface.
Peace, concord without death
Pope Francis recalled the words of Pope St. John Paul II during his 1993 visit to Agrigento and other places in Sicily. After the celebration of Holy Mass in the Valley of the Temples, the Polish Pope said:
“Let there be concord in this land of yours! Concord without death, without assassinations, without fear, without threats, without victims! Let there be concord! This concord, this peace to which every people and every human being and every family aspires! After so many times of suffering you finally have a right to live in peace. And those who are guilty of disturbing this peace, those who carry on their consciences so many human victims, they must understand, they must understand that innocent killing is not allowed! God once said: ‘Thou shalt not kill’: man cannot, anyone, any human agglomeration, mafia, cannot change and trample on this most holy right of God!”
Pope Francis wrote that the “good odour of Christ that emanates from the martyred body of the young becomes a seed of rebirth” on the path of penance and conversion for everyone, especially for those who live in situations of violence, war, persecution and abuses against human dignity.
“We give thanks to Rosario Angelo Livatino, today also through his beatification,” the Pope said, “for the example he leaves us, for having fought every day the good fight of faith with humility, meekness and mercy. Always and only in the name of Christ, without ever abandoning faith and justice, even in the imminence of the risk of death. This is the seed planted; this is the fruit to come.”