by Bluto Ray
A devil’s triangle of Church, State and Mafia existed in Camporeale, a rural town outside Palermo, founded, as the name implies, on old royal grounds. The territory’s capomafia, Vanni Sacco, slipped back into power with Sicily’s political reshuffle following the Second World War. Though lacking blue blood, the shrewd and haughty boss descended from an old elite family of the area. Sacco kept a despotic grip on the affairs of Camporeale with the frequent help of the regional archbishop, Ernesto Eugenio Filippi, a scheming mafioso in his own right.
A naive young parish priest named Vincenzo Ferranti learned a difficult lesson about the hidden power structure of his diocese. Entrusted with the souls of Camporeale’s eight thousand citizens, he railed against Sacco from the pulpit. The public denunciations appeared to be political: Father Ferranti opposed anyone outside the Christian Democratic party, and Sacco was a Liberal. But the priest was trying to block Mafia influence in his church. For this sin, the door of the rectory was shot up by submachine guns as he lay in bed inside.
Terrified, Ferranti fled with a young supporter to the gilded palace of Archbishop Filippi in Monreale. After calming the priest, Monsignor Filippi arranged a lunch with Sacco, brokering a truce with generous terms for the boss. Before long, a crowd was summoned to the piazza of Camporeale by a band playing religious hymns. A convertible automobile drove up the town's main street as in a procession. In it was the fearsome Sacco Vanni; seated next to him was a humiliated and chastened Father Ferranti. In accordance with the agreement, the new church bell was christened with the name of Sacco’s daughter, Giovanna.