26 May 2013

Murdered priest beatified in Sicily

7:00 am on 26 May 2013

More than 50,000 people have attended the beatification of Don Giuseppe Puglisi, a Catholic priest murdered by the Mafia in Sicily in 1993.

The ceremony in Palermo on Saturday marks the penultimate step on the path to being made a saint. A huge photo of him was unveiled.

Fr. Puglisi was shot by a hitman in front of the church where he used to urge his congregation to disobey the Mafia.

The BBC reports he will be the first victim of organised crime to be declared a martyr by the Catholic Church.

Six men are currently serving life sentences for the murder, which took place on his 56th birthday.

Pope Benedict XVI put him on the fast track towards sainthood when he signed a decree last year recognising that Fr. Puglisi had been killed "in hatred of the faith''.

Fr. Puglisi had become increasingly outspoken in denouncing crime and collusion between politicians and mafia figures.

He was famous for a rhetorical question, which he used to encourage Sicilians to stand up and fight organised crime: "And what if somebody did something?"