Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Italy:Calabrian Mafia attack blamed for halting Easter procession

Vibo Valentia, 6 April (AKI) - Prosecutors in the southern Italian town of Vibo Valentia are investigating the alleged intimidation of a local priest by Calabrian mafia gunmen which led to the cancellation of a traditional Easter vigil procession.

Last Saturday's traditional 'Affruntata' procession in the Calabrian village of Sant'Onofrio was cancelled after suspected mafia gunmen fired rounds of bullets outside the home of the procession's organiser, local priest Michele Virdo.

The attack drew condemnation from across the political spectrum.

"This serious act of intimidation must not discourage those who are fighting the 'Ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia)," said historic anti-mafia campaigner Leoluca Orlando, now a member of the centre-left Italy of Values opposition party.

The gun attack against Virdo's residence followed the exclusion of local mafia members from the 'Affruntata' on orders of the bishop of the surrounding Vibo-Mileto-Tropea diocese, Monsignor Luigi Renzo.

The attack was condemned by far-right party La Destra founder Francesco Storace.

"Our solidarity is with the church which does not tolerate mafia bosses," he said.

In a longstanding tradition, young members of the local Calabrian mafia carry statues of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and various saints during the 'Affruntata' procession.

Taking part in the 'Affruntata' is reportedly considered a rite of passage for many young people aligned with the mafia.

Paramilitary 'Carabinieri' police from Vibo Valentia and the surrounding province collected around 30 bullets and cartridges from outside Virdo's home, which were due to be analysed by ballistics experts.