by Carl Russo
A famed anti-Mafia priest gets the Scooby-Doo treatment in the animated kiddie show, “La Missione di 3P.” (After all, “anime” is Latin for “soul.” ) 3P is Padre Pino Puglisi, whose impolitic sermons against the gangsters of his outpost parish in Brancaccio earned him a fatal “rosary of gunshots,” as they say in Italy, in 1993.
As seen in the trailer below, the RAI-TV series adds hair to the ecclesiastic and casts him, appropriately, as a crime fighter. The jazzy show-tune theme has a catchy chorus anyone can translate:
“Io parlo con Dio, Dio parla con me.
Pio, amico mio, Pio parla con te.”
But the production is cheap—farmed out to a Korean animation house?—and the didactic tone won’t earn too many young converts. (For junior do-gooders with A.D.D., I'd recommend the new book, Invasion of the Cockroaches: The Mafia Explained to Kids.)
Puglisi is in the spotlight on terra firma as well. His remains will be transfered to Palermo’s grand cathedral and Pope Benedict plans to beatify him in May 2013. I’m all in favor of canonizing a cleric who demonstrated bravery instead of magic tricks, but if kids actually tune in to “La Missione di 3P," we’ll have the miracle, too.
I’d also like to see sainthood bestowed on another 3P, Pastor Pietro Panascia, even if he wasn’t a Roman Catholic. Panascia organized a protest in 1963 after a car bomb in Ciaculli blew up seven officers of the carabiniere. His demonstration, which he titled “An Initiative for the Respect of Human Life,” was shrugged off by Palermo Archbishop Ernesto Ruffini as “a ridiculous attempt by a speculative Protestant.”
That was the same Ruffini who considered the Mafia to be nothing more than simple Sicilian delinquency and/or a communist plot.
Pastor Panascia managed to avoid the fate of Father Puglisi; he died at 97.
From the sacred to the profane: In 2010, I entered the church of Regina Pacis in the fashionable Libertà neighborhood of Palermo in search of a certain Mafia artifact: a brass plate on one of the confessionals bearing the tribute,
“Gift of faith and love of Giuseppe Puma and sons in perpetual blessing and memory of Ignazio Salvo.”
As I’ve written, Ignazio Salvo, together with his cousin Antonino Salvo, had been blessed with the task of collecting taxes from Sicilians on behalf of the Mafia. But the tide turned and all of Ignazio’s political juice couldn’t save him. Caught in the middle, he was sentenced in the famous maxi-trials of the 1980s and soon killed for proving incapable of keeping his friends out of prison.
I discovered that the Salvo plaque was missing from the confessional. A lot of bad press had compelled the priest to remove it. Spotting my camera, he felt compelled to remove me from his church, too, and so he did.