“I’ve been expecting you.”
These were reportedly the foreboding last words of Blessed Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi, an Italian priest who was shot and killed by the Italian mafia in 1993.Declared a martyr by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012 and beatified in 2013, the priest is being honored once again by the Vatican, which has just released a commemorative stamp in his honor on the 25th anniversary of his martyrdom.
Blessed Puglisi was born on Sept. 15, 1937 to a modest working-class family in Palermo, Italy. He entered the seminary at the age of 16, and was ordained a priest in 1960 at the age of 22. Throughout his priesthood, he was known for being outspoken against injustices – including Communism, the Mafia, and problems within the Church.
Archbishop Salvatore Di Cristina, a fellow priest and friend of Puglisi, recalled to the National Catholic Register in 2013 the transformative effect that Puglisi had on the whole town of Godrano.
Once an entangled mob town with an unspoken curfew and neighbors that were afraid of each other, Puglisi’s pastoral approach “won over the kids of the town, and after the kids, he won over the families. After his departure, Godrano was completely transformed,” he said.While there are some who “would define him as a social-action priest or some kind of ‘anti-Mafia’ professional,” Archbishop Di Cristina said that was not really the case.
“He just deeply lived his vocation,” he said. “Father Puglisi was not a typical anti-Mafia priest. He did not organize rallies or make public condemnation of Mafia,” Archbishop Michele Pennisi told the National Catholic Register in 2013. “[The] Mafia does not see that kind of priest as dangerous.”Puglisi was actually considered more dangerous “because he educated young people,” Archbishop Pennisi said. He would convince youth not to steal or quit school and encouraged them away from the Mafia, who would often use children to help them traffic drugs and other illicit materials. Puglisi preached against the Mafia, ignored their threats, banned them from leading religious processions and even stealthily gave clues to the authorities about their latest activities in his homilies. Consequently, his life was threatened by the mob numerous times, unbeknownst to even those closest to him until after his death.