Taras Semenyuk

The Godfather film soundtrack rings out to hysterical mourners as luxury cars from Rolls Royces to Mercedes Benz closely follow an authentic horse-drawn carriage; but this is no film. This was the recent funeral of mafia boss Vittorio Cassamonica in the Italian capital Rome.

Usually, Italy is renowned worldwide for its fashion industry, mouthwatering pizza or being home to the Pope. However, the country is also notorious for the mafia; a large underworld that stands in striking contrast to the glitz and glamour usually experienced by international tourists .

A prime example of this troubling attitude at state and church level followed the recent death of a high-profile leader of one organised crime group. The funeral of Don Vittorio was held in the biggest Salesian church in Rome. All the Catholic formalities were observed, despite Pope Francis’s defiant refusal a year ago to accommodate mafiamembers with such a service, claiming instead the clans were excommunicated from the Church.

“Those who, in their life, have gone along the evil ways, as in the case of the mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated,” Pope Francis stated in his speech on June 23 2014.

Missionary priest and journalist Giulio Albanese wrote on his Facebook page that “a funeral in style ‘il Padrino’ in the heart of Rome and the Vatican shows a huge symptom of moral degradation of society.” Rev. Albanese not only refers to state policy. It is no secret that the mafia and the Italian state cooperate in different ways. An event like this couldn’t have taken place without the permission of Romecity council. However, the main indignation of Albanese is that the mafia king’s funeral ceremony was held in a church despite the excommunication by the Pope.

“For this sacrilege, someone must answer to God, in front of the Church and society”. Who will be responsible for that?”.

The mafia phenomenon in Italy has deep historical roots. Sicily is its birthplace and, to the present day, still has an extraordinary role in the local society there.

Different clans agreed to divide and conquer different corners of Italy. Cosa Nostra, Ndraghena, Comorra and Sacred Crown are the main four clans. In Sicily, the main task of the mafia was not only to control the territory but to protect people from the state institutions. In order for ordinary citizens to resolve their problems, they are encouraged to first go to a mafia boss, not to the police. Crime bosses are perceived to work for local people, as opposed to the mayor who is widely seen to have no credibility.

The time of smoking barrels has passed in Italy. Mafia members have strong influence in the national government and state institutions by influencing corrupt politicians. Young Italians mafia members are like heroes who fight against corrupt state. The movie ‘Camorra’ by Matteo Garrone underscores this concept; that the state authorities have nothing to oppose the local clans with in an adequate way. Even still, the mafia contributes to this sort of culture with its own virtues and laws in the south of Italy. It really is a state inside a state.

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