Priest continues to give Communion to jailed mobsters despite ‘excommunication’

Pope Francis last month described mafiosi as excommunicated because of ‘path of evil’ they follow

Pope Francis described mafiosi as “excommunicated” because “their lives follow this path of evil”. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pope Francis described mafiosi as “excommunicated” because “their lives follow this path of evil”. Photograph: Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Tue, Jul 8, 2014, 01:01

A Catholic priest said he was continuing to give Holy Communion to Mafia bosses at a high-security prison in Italy, even after Pope Francis said members of organised crime groups were “excommunicated”.

During a trip to one of Italy’s most Mafia-infested regions last month, Pope Francis described mafiosi as “excommunicated” because “their lives follow this path of evil”.

After the pope’s comments, “some prisoners came to me and asked me if they should consider themselves excommunicated, saying that if they could no longer take the sacrament, they would stop coming to Mass,” prison chaplain Marco Colonna told La Repubblica newspaper.

“I tried to explain to them that the church doesn’t kick anyone out and, after a few days of reflection, I told them that they would continue to receive the sacrament,” said Fr Colonna, who works at the prison in the southern town of Larino.

“I continued to give Communion to bosses . . . I cannot avoid it,” the priest added.

The Vatican has said the pope’s use of the word “excommunication” had not amounted to a formal decree under church law. Instead, a Vatican spokesman said, the pope had meant to tell the criminals they had effectively excommunicated themselves and could not participate in church sacraments because they had distanced themselves from God.

High-ranking church officials also said the pope’s words meant Mafia bosses should not be allowed to take Communion, but added that did not mean they were shut out forever.

“Someone who is excommunicated cannot take Communion and is excluded from the sacraments, but he can listen to the word of God,” Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian bishop’s conference whose diocese the pope was visiting when he spoke out against the mob, told Corriere della Sera newspaper. – (Reuters)