The beatification of Fr Pino Puglisi on May 25, 2013, is becoming a symbol of the struggle against the Mafia and modern forms of slavery. The young people of the Focolare are also working to build up the rule of law.
‘I cannot do this! I cannot make us, my brothers and sisters, into slaves!’ The words of Pope Francis at the Angelus on 26 May come to mind and they echo John Paul II’s powerful and passionate words in 1993 against Mafia members in the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento, only a few months after the murder of Don Puglisi. Twenty years after his death, Fr Pino Puglisi has been proclaimed ‘Blessed’ in Palermo in Sicily.
He was slaughtered on 15 September 1993 by contract killers from the Mafia family in control of the Brancaccio district where Don Puglisi lived and worked ceaselessly as the Parish Priest of St Gaetano’s church. He ‘educated the young in the Gospel’ and helped them escape lives of crime, as Pope Francis recalled. Among the 80,000 participants at the beatification ceremony, there was a large group from the Focolare Movement, many of whom were young people from various parts of Sicily.
The ceremony in Palermo had been planned for a long time. In fact, Youth for a United World worked for months in the ‘Cantiere Legalità’, a project to establish the rule of law run by Progetto Italia, and they were looking forward to meeting one another on this occasion of celebration. They hoped to have a further experience of solidarity with the people of Palermo and elsewhere committed to building up the rule of law. While Fr Puglisi was being beatified in Sicily, about a 100 young people from the ‘Cantiere Legalità’ were meeting together in Milan to discuss the issue of the Mafia, looking at its roots and ways of operating and studying strategies to combat it.
The next event for Italian young people belonging to the Focolare Movement will be in Caserta (29 July – 2 August 2013). Here they will share their experiences and insights from the last few months as they have considered three themes to do with the rule of law: care for immigrants, the environment and work.
The commitment to legality in Sicily by the Focolare began long ago. Chiara Lubich herself in Palermo in 1998 spoke on this very topic in response to questions from several people. She urged those who were seriously committed to working for the common good to unite, starting from Catholic groups and Movements, and promote a ‘civilization of love’. She hoped they would consolidate and raise the profile of the work done on a daily basis to overcome the destructive presence of the Mafia.
What happened in the following years certainly bore fruit. Both Youth a United World and Youth for Unity were on the same coaches as young people from other groups and associations. They all shared the same longing for a world where people are united and live as one family.
Even more than this, showing the network built up over the years in Palermo, young people (who were of every age) wanted to go on two significant visits. The first was to the association Libera where they found out more about their work in Mafia-controlled places. The second was to the Community of Sant’Egidio who gave them a chance to talk with people who actually knew Don Puglisi. At this second event the Youth for Unity from Palermo explained what they were doing in their city and in particular in the Brancaccio district. They said they had painted some excellent murals in the very square where Fr Puglisi was killed, and even after months no one had touched them. In bold letters they had written: ‘The Golden Rule: Treat others as you want them to treat you.’