L’immaginario devoto tra mafie e antimafia 1

Riti, culti e santi

a cura di Tommaso Caliò e Lucia Ceci
Collana: Sanctorum. Scritture, pratiche, immagini, 1
Pubblicazione: Marzo 2017

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Dal controllo dei culti patronali ai riti di affiliazione fino alla promozione di un’immagine sacralizzata del capomafia: le organizzazioni criminali attingono spesso al repertorio devozionale cattolico. Il controllo dell’immaginario devoto consacra il ruolo dei boss come depositari di valori tradizionali, promuove un’immagine del capomafia che si fonda su un presunto rapporto privilegiato con il sacro, dimostra il suo potere sul territorio.
Ma all’indomani della stagione dello stragismo mafioso, con la visita di Giovanni Paolo II in Sicilia nel maggio del 1993 e con l’assassinio di don Puglisi nel settembre dello stesso anno, la Chiesa cattolica ha intrapreso un’opera di riconquista e di risemantizzazione dello spazio devozionale che si è intrecciata con la formazione di modelli e riti di carattere civile.
Questi i temi al centro del volume che nell’ultima parte si apre a scenari di comparazione attraverso l’avvio di un’analisi dei rapporti tra pratiche religiose e malavita organizzata nelle realtà messicana, russa e statunitense.

Tommaso Caliò, Lucia Ceci

Compari di san Giovanni. Matrimoni e battesimi nella mafia dell’agro palermitano negli anni Venti
Manoela Patti

Matrimonies and Baptisms in the Mafia of Palermo during the Twenties

Historical sources have demonstrated that, since the origins of the Mafia, it has always had strong links with religion. Often, mafiosi appear to conform to Christian values: they usually go to Mass and celebrate baptisms and marriages, or tend to use religious symbols, such as crosses or holy pictures. They favour the preservation of a traditional society, outwardly based on hierarchical values and family unity. However, their ceremonies and family ties are used to reinforce criminal alliances, often ratified by comparaggio, the strong tie that arises from baptism. This article, based mainly on police and judiciary sources from the Fascist anti-mafia campaign of Cesare Mori (1925-1932), analyzes the role of weddings, baptisms, and confraternity affiliations in the scheme of Mafia power, during the first two decades of the Twentieth Century.

Sicilia inizio anni Sessanta. I frati di Mazzarino, la mafia, la Chiesa
Gianluca Fulvetti

Sicily in the early Sixties. The Mazzarino Brothers, the Mafia and the Church

February 1962, Messina: there opens the trial against four Capuchin friars of Mazzarino, accused of extortion carried out against some of their brethren and fellow citizens. The story goes national; someone describes them as “Mafia friars”. The present essay first presents a summary of the facts, based on trial records and contemporary news reports. The unanimous defence of the friars, undertaken by the Sicilian Church and the cardinal of Palermo, Ernesto Ruffini is explored; they characterized the Franciscans involved as victims of a socialist-communist plot to discredit both Church and Christian Democrats. Thus the Sicilian church, conditioned by the dynamics of political and ideological struggle (despite opposition to their position from the Vatican), missed an opportunity to turn the mafia and its collusion with some clerics into an object of reflection for both laity and ecclesiastics alike.

«Papi, cupole e mandarini tardivi». Religiosità e identità nelle parole del boss Michele Greco
Rossella Merlino

«Popes, cupolas and tangerines»: Religiosity and Identity in the Words of Mafia Boss Michele Greco

This contribution aims to examine the religious dimension in the personal narratives of mafia boss Michele Greco in relation to issues of identity loss and reconstruction. Known as the “Pope” of Cosa Nostra, Michele Greco, prominent boss and head of the mafia Commission until the early 1980s, emerged from the maxi-trial of Palermo as a deeply ambiguous figure. If, from the one hand pentiti (mafia defectors) described him as «a puppet in the hand of the Corlenese faction», on the other he demonstrated cunning abilities in manoeuvring his role behind the scenes of the Second Mafia War. Repeated appeals to faith and memoirs embedded with biblical citations further added to this ambiguity, becoming a crucial component of his social identity and media representations. Adopting case study analysis and drawing on an interdisciplinary approach that bridges insights of Symbolic Interactionism, Identity Theory and Narrative Performance Studies, this contribution seeks to analyse the religious dimension in selected personal narratives of Michele Greco (interviews, memoirs, court hearings) in relation to issues of loss and reconstruction of self-identity. Data for analysis are derived from judicial papers, parliamentary reports and video-footage.

Il rapporto tra gerarchie ecclesiastiche e devozione popolare in Calabria. Un resoconto etnografico e qualche considerazione
Giorgio Adamo

The Relationship between Ecclesial Hierarchies and Folk Devotion in Calabria. An Ethnographic Report and some Remarks

This essay is based on an ethnomusicological field research carried out in Calabria and dedicated to pilgrimages, processions and patron saint festivals. In particular, it focuses on the complex relationship between the Church, music and dance that emerges from this context and which characterizes the traditional folk devotion rooted in an ancient rural culture. These practices seem to resist the opposition of the Church, especially where the presence of criminal activities and the cultural influence of the ’ndrangheta organization appears to be stronger. According to the author, the identification of folk devotion with criminal behavior and culture may be misleading. The recent struggle that the Church, State and mass media have undertaken against folk devotion, merely considered as a demonstration of ’ndrangheta’s cultural power, can turn out to be useless or even counterproductive.

La festa di Sant’Agata tra devozione popolare, strumentalizzazioni criminali, ambiguità istituzionali e impegno civile (2008-2014)
Rossana Barcellona, Teresa Sardella

The Feast of St. Agatha: Popular Devotion, Criminal Exploitation, Institutional Ambiguities and Civic Engagement (2008-2014)

This paper proposes a study on the relationship between the traditional festival of Saint Agatha, the patron saint of Catania, mafia infiltration and journalism during the years 2008-2017. In those years, in fact, investigations and court acts were built upon suspicions and rumours. From a survey of newspapers and other media different approaches become evident, raising important questions and offering an interesting ground for analysis.

Di sangue e d’inchiostro. Vincolo mafioso e religiosità
Deborah Puccio-Den

From Blood to Ink: Mafia-type Links and Religiosity

«May God bless you and protect you!»: This expression concluded all the letters sent by Bernardo Provenzano to the various members of the Cosa Nostra during the period of his directorship (1993-2006). These secret texts, available for researchers, force us to ask several questions : how did this bloodthirsty man companion in arms of Toto Tina manage to impose himself as the charismatic leader of the Sicilian Mafia? In what way did he manipulate writing in order to become omniscient and omnipotent, to control the entire Mafia network? How did this Mafioso handle the power of writing to construct his spiritual authority? Through the corpus of his letters, this paper also aims to explore the paradoxical link between Mafia and religion. The latter can be traced back to the initiation rite as the founding moment of the Mafioso commitment in a blood community permeated with words, symbols, artifacts and justifications arising from the Christian repertory.

Ritualità, verbalità, simbolismo: note sugli archetipi iniziatici dell’affiliazione mafiosa
Ernesto Di Rienzo

Rituals, Phraseology and Symbolism: Notes for Archetypes of Mafia Initiation

Affiliation with one of the numerous secret mafia organisations is a complex process which includes various initiatory experiences and scenarios. Whether it involves becoming a member of Cosa Nostra, Sacra Corona Unita, Camorra, or Yakuza, beginners must perform initiation rituals which concern concepts and formalities that are virtually identical. The symbolism underlying initiatory rituals, including connection to blood, courage, death, and rebirth, provide an ideological model that functions at the depth of the psyche through the imagination This ideological model’s geographical and historical-cultural demonstration seems to be connected to the archetypes of human thoughts. On one hand, it owes its effectiveness and endurance to the ability of making a strong and irreversible bond with the group, on the other hand it is linked to the initiations’ capability to express and sum up the change of identity felt by those undergoing them.

Religione, mafie, Chiese: un rapporto controverso tra devozione e secolarizzazione
Alessandra Dino

Religion, Mafia and Church: an Ambiguous Relationship between Devotion and Secularization

Talking about men of honour’s religiousness and examining the relationships which have regulated the contacts between religious institutions and criminal organizations means dealing with various levels of analysis. First, it is necessary to understand the meaning of devotion and religious rituals in the mafia world, and the role which faith plays in the criminal context; then we must consider the attitudes, over time, that the Church has shown to mafias, analyzing both the official pronouncements of the Church hierarchies and the pastoral practices adopted by priests in their territories. Finally, we must neglect the analysis of crucial specific issues: the distinction between sin and crime; the perspectives of an Anti-mafia pastoral. Inside this multilevel context, the paper is focused on describing the latest developments in the relationship between the Church and the Mafia, observing how the analytical framework is becoming ever more complex because of the deep changes occurring in Mafia’s criminal systems, and because of emerging questions which demand more a sophisticated analysis.

Ritualità e immaginario civile del movimento antimafia
Marcello Ravveduto

Rituals and Civil Imagery in the Antimafia Movement

After the massacres of 1992-1993, the figure of the innocent victim of the mafia was granted, through the creation of a historical narrative, an important status within the collective imaginaire, in which a sacral symbolism was created around the now anti-mafia martyrs. These individuals thus became part of the Italian cult of the (secular) dead, where untouchable objects of popular devotion manifest a resurgence of civic religion without its being antagonistic to Catholicism. The innocent mafia victim belongs to a symbolic universe adjacent to the figure of the patriot/hero/martyr. It enters the same heritage of places, memories and testimonies that renews a long-term civic culture, powered by a collective imagination based on the redemption of fatherland. The anti-mafia movement encourages the defence of republican values reproducing Resistance ideals, and which reflect the stereotype of the “Risorgimento canon”. The collective ritual is a historical guarantee: it sanctifies victims, revealing the existence of a “land of heroes”: a Pantheon of women and men who oppose their material sacrifice to “the death of the Fatherland”.

Santi laici e apostoli civili nel profondo Sud: le premesse dell’agiografia antimafia
Antonio Baglio, Vincenzo Schirripa

Secular Saints and Civil Apostles in the Deep South: the Premises of Antimafia Hagiografy

A trend of Southernist (meridionalista) inspiration can be identified at the forefront of the hagiographic narrative promoted by the antimafia movement, alongside the narratives generated by the workers’ and peasant movements in relation to the cult of the remembrance of the victims. Endowing key antimafia figures of some exemplary Southern stories with heroism is one characteristic of such trend. This paper aims to trace the origins and development of a so-clalled anti-mafia “holiness”. This will be done by drawing, on the one hand, on the tradition of peasant mobilization in the post-war period, with particular reference to Sicilian trade unionists Accursio Miraglia, Placido Rizzotto and Salvatore Carnevale, who were murdered by the mafia between 1947 and 1955. On the other hand, it will draw on a specific line of civic and democratic engagement which has its roots in the Risorgimento and which was embodied by engagés intellectuals such as Umberto Zanotti Bianco, Rocco Scotellaro e Danilo Dolci.

Eroe, uomo, santo? Il paradosso della memoria di Giovanni Falcone
Charlotte Moge

Hero, Man, Saint? The Paradox of the Memory of Giovanni Falcone

Giovanni Falcone’s remembrance has sustained the collective imagination and the anti-mafia movement. The evolution of the manner in which he is represented reveals different states in this memory-building process, which tends to paradoxically hesitate between heroising and humanising victims, but who are in fine sacralised by commemorations. After his murder by the Mafia, the construction of the judge’s memory was characterized, especially in the press, by the celebration of his heroic and exemplary commitment. Subsequently, representations progressively nuanced his heroism to allow his humanity, his fears and doubts, to appear. Nevertheless civic cult granted Falcone shows that the religiosity of memory practices tends to sacralise the remembrance of those who have fallen in the struggle against the mafia.

I martiri della lotta alla mafia nell’insegnamento di Giovanni Paolo II
Valentina Ciciliot

Anti-Mafia Martyrs in John Paul II’s Teaching

Martyrs who fight the mafia within the Catholic Church is a category that only recently – during John Paul II’s pontificate – becomes relevant in the pastoral discourse, with mediatic consequences of no small importance, and that only with the beatification of the priest Pino Puglisi on May 25th, 2013 has an official ecclesiastical recognition. John Paul II is the pope who first has expressed a persuasive condemnation against the mafia. If the new element in the magisterial discourse is the understanding of the mafia not only as a legal problem or a social diorder, or as a moral debate, but as a political and cultural issue, which affects society as a whole, however the answer to the criminal organisation suggested by the pope remains within a perspective to be included in the broader wojtylian strategy of the new evangelization, anchored to a pessimistic analysis of contemporary society. The anti-mafia martyrs finally find space thanks to the wider process of enlargement of the concept of martyrdom, favored by John Paul II’s extensive use of the canonisation as an instrument of ecclesiastical governament.

L’uccisione in //odium fidei// di don Puglisi
Mario Torcivia

The Killing of Don Puglisi in odium fidei

Father Giuseppe Puglisi (1937-1997) was a Roman Catholic priest from Palermo murdered by the Mafia on September 15th, 1993. He was beatified by the Catholic Church on May 25, 2013 as a martyr, because he was killed in odium fidei (in hatred of the Faith). This paper explains the reasons presented in the Positio super martyrio and in the Positio Suppletiva super martyrio of the Servant of God Giuseppe Puglisi whose killing was recognized as a true martyrdom. Father Puglisi, therefore, is the first case of a believer killed by an organization, the Mafia, that never wanted to be considered itself as anti-evangelical or atheist, but that, as a matter of fact, the Church condemned as such.

Il clero napoletano tra collaborazione e lotta alla camorra
Tamara Colacicco

The Neopolitan Clergy and the Camorra: between Collaboration and Resistance

Scholarly approaches to organized crime in Italy have recently opened up new avenues for research, including the Church’s attitudes toward Italian crime organizations, especially but not only the Sicilian Mafia. My research focuses on the mafia operating in Naples and the surrounding region of Campania: The Camorra. There is still no systematic analysis of the relationship between the Camorra and the local clergy, a notable lacuna in the study of organized crime, the historiography on the Catholic Church, and the broader history of modern Italy. The sporadic literature available on the subject has tended to adopt one of two approaches: either focusing on individuals (Don Peppe Diana, for instance); or engaging the issue from a sociological, political, or moral – rather than historical – perspective (see for example the books by Antonio Riboldi and Aniello Manganiello). The aim of my article is to interpret the ambiguities in the controversial history of relationships between local clergy and organized crime. Combining journalistic sources and first-person narratives along with cinematic and literary representations of Camorra bosses and affiliates, I identify and examine the lives of several key ecclesiastical figures who, since the 1980s, have been engaged with the criminal underworld in Naples and the surrounding area (from Monsignor Antonio Riboldi and Don Aniello Manganiello to Padre Mariano Santini and Suor Aldina Murelli). By exploring the seemingly unlikely and often alarming intimacy in the relationship between priests and mob bosses, my work also contributes to research in two related spheres: the Camorra’s infiltration of patron saints’ day festivals and other religious celebrations, and the impact of spiritual beliefs and Catholic rituality in the initiation rites, culture, and “devout imagination” of the “camorrista”.

La “scomunica” ai mafiosi del 21 giugno 2014 tra filologia e storia
Davide Dainese

The “Excommunication” of Mafiosi on 21 June 2014: between Philology and History

The essay investigates the homily Pope Francis delivered on June 21st 2014 at the end of his pastoral visit to the Italian diocese of Cassano allo Jonio (CS). In this speech, Francis’ condemnation of criminal organizations sounds different from the one that of John Paul II pronounced on May 9th apice1993, as Pope Bergoglio explicitly excommunicates those who are involved in Mafia affairs. Nevertheless, many aspects of this excommunication are still obscure ‒ as a matter of fact, it is too general and vague to be effective. In this framework, the essay aims to do a philological analysis of Francis’ homily.

Mafia and Funerals. Representations, Stereotypes and Identity. The U.S. Case
Diego Gavini

Mafia and Funerals. Representations, Stereotypes and Identity. The U.S. Case

In collective imagination, mafia funerals are an expression of the power and excess that Mafiosi characteristically embody. In the U.S., writers, directors, journalists, and scholars, have described these funerary practices as a form of popular devotion towards leading figures of the criminal underworld within the Italian-American community. However, a research on the history of mafia-style funeral and the reasons for its success suggests different ways of interpretation. This dissertation will explore the criminal context of Chicago and New York and it will examine the funerary rites within the underworld, from James “Big Jim” Colosimo’s (1920) to John Gotti’s burial (2002). This essay argues that this funeral model – considered as a typical expression of Mafia groups nowadays – is not part of the traditional identity of Italian-American Mafia, but an outcome of the complex underworld of Chicago in the Twenties.

Il buon ladrone in salsa russa: gesti e riti che salvano l’anima
Mario Caramitti

The “Good Criminal” Russian Style: Saving Souls through Symbols and Rituals

The Soviet Union, inherently materialistic and atheistic, opposed religion and religious culture for 70 years and yet whilst simoultaneously founding its ideology on a rather dogmatic, and even teleological basis. Nevertheless, soviet law (zakon) always lacked a deep and coherent ethic and spiritual validation, which allowed criminal elites to replace their leading role with a parallel, criminal law, founded on a detailed unwritten code, and imposing a life of obedience and loneliness vaguely similar to a monastic one. Those “consecrated” as vory-v-zakone (thieves in law) were the leaders of a powerful, influentialand thoroughly ritualized criminal society.Soviet criminal subculture deeply mirrors itself in tattoo imagery, in which faith, religion and their subversion (?) are widely intertwined with soviet reality. In post-soviet era, as a result of on odd overturning, massmedia culture projects vory-v-zakone heritage on newly central Orthodox church. A tattooed musclebound priest, annihilating evil in a very physical way, is one of most beloved films and novel heroes.

Devozione nel Messico rivoluzionario tra banditismo, criminalità e movimenti di resistenza indigena
Massimo De Giuseppe

Devotion in Mexico: between Revolutionary Banditry, Crime and Indigenous Resistance Movements

The essay, in a perspective of comparative history, tries to reconstruct the complex relationship between social bandolerismo, criminal violence and the use of religion in the Twentieth century Mexico. Among harmonious and discordant elements, compared to the case of the Italian Mezzogiorno, the essay attempts to reconstruct the deep contradictions that pervaded this relation and to explore some forms of exploiting and reinventing religion and devotional elements of Catholicism inside some banditry experiences. At the same time the essay tries to articulate ‒ recovering (and separating) ‒ other forms of violent reaction to social pressures in the indigenous syncretic Mexico. The processes of modernization played a decisive role in the redefinition of social violence, building the myth of the “civilizational lag” of a part of the Mexican nation; a lag often connected, by modernizing elite, to its religious dimension (“the fanatics”). Even a paradigmatic phenomenon, in the context of the Twentieth century revolutions, like the Zapatismo, for a long time was associated, by the elite, with a form of barbaric, aztec and superstitious lag, before being recovered as a social process and revolutionary agrarian movement. 

Dal Messico al mondo: il lungo viaggio della Santa Muerte
Fabrizio Lorusso

From Mexico to the World: the Long Journey of Santa Muerte

This article presents a brief history and the recent evolution of the Mexican devotion to Santa Muerte (Holy Death), paying attention to the social and cultural factors that contributed to shape this new religious movement and its expansion outside Mexico. The topic has been studied with an ethnographic perspective, researching the most recognized and traditional Mexican altars of Santa Muerte, especially in the city of Tultitlán and in Mexico City’s neighborhoods of Tepito and Merced, and interviewing experts and keepers (guardianas) in order to compare different experiences and practices. The study attempts to offer a framework of the Mexican society and its problems – like the lack of welfare, the security crisis, the “drug war” and the bad record in the respect of human rights – through the lenses of the devotion to Santa Muerte. 

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