Sunday, July 01, 2007

Naples Mafia drives priest out of city

~from The Telegraph

The local Mafia in Naples has forced a priest who preached against crime to quit the city.

The Camorra, which masterminds a significant part of Europe's cocaine trade, threatened to kill Father Luigi Merola if he did not leave.

The final warning came in the form of a photograph of the priest with a bullet entering his mouth. Father Merola was in charge of the parish of Forcella, a violent neighbourhood in the heart of the city which is controlled by the crime gang. He has had a police escort for the past three years and last week, a 30-year-old man was shot just outside the priest's church.

Although he was popular in the area for his fight against organised crime, the local curia finally decided that it was too dangerous for Father Merola to remain.

He has been given a job at the Italian Bishops' Conference in Rome.

In his final Mass a few weeks ago, Father Merola told worshippers that criminals could not stop "spring" from arriving in Naples and it would be "a season of peace".

Father Merola said he was not being forced out by fear. He said he reached the decision with Cardinal Sepe, the Archbishop of Naples.

"One phase is closed, a new one begins," he said. "But I will continue to fight against crime." Meanwhile, in Palermo, four shopkeepers won a battle against two Mafia dons demanding protection money.

About three-quarters of shops in Palermo pay a "pizzo" to the Mafia.

In a rare display of bravery, the owners of a bakery recorded the mafiosi with a microphone hidden in a watch. "You only want to give me 600," said Salvatore La Monica, 35, one of the two men in custody.

"But that is nothing!"

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