Pino Puglisi

Saint PinoGiuseppe “Pino” Puglisi  was born in Italy in 1937 in the  working-class neighborhood in Palermo (Sicily), into a family of modest means. His father was a shoemaker and his mother a dressmaker. He entered the minor seminary at age sixteen. Following his ordination as a priest in 1960, he worked in various parishes. In 1990, Puglisi returned to his  hometown and became the priest of a parish there. Sicily is known for the presence and influence of the Mafia. Fr Pino spoke out against the Mafia who controlled the area and opened a shelter for underprivileged children. Puglisi had been offered other parishes by the local curia, in less troublesome neighborhoods, but he opted  to stay there.  He  tried to change his parishioners’ mentality, which was conditioned by fear, passivity and silence. In his sermons, he pleaded to give leads to authorities about the Mafia’s illicit activities.  He refused the Mafia members’ contributions when offered in the church, and would not allow the men involved with the mafia to march at the head of religious processions. He tried to discourage the children from dropping out of school, stealing, doing and selling drugs. Those parishioners who tried to support Fr Pino and improve their town received threats and found their houses torched.  On September 15, 1993 the day of his 56th birthday—Fr Pino  was shot and killed in front of his parish . One of the hit men who killed Puglisi, later confessed and revealed the priest’s last words as his killers approached were “I’ve been expecting you.“ His murder shocked Italy. Pope John Paul II praised Puglisi as a “courageous exponent of the Gospel.” He urged Sicilians not to allow the priest’s death to have been in vain and warned that silence and passivity about the Mafia was tantamount to complicity. In  1998, four men received life sentences for the killing of Puglisi. In 2012 he was declared a martyr in hatred of the faith and he was beatified in 2013. His life story has been portrayed in a film, In the Sunlight (2005).