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.