Blessed Rosario Livatino: A Martyr for Justice

Friday 29 October 2021 remains an historic date for those who venerate Blessed Rosario Livatino, for today is his first liturgical memorial.

Rosario Livatino, or as he is commonly known the “boy judge”, was the first magistrate that was beatified throughout the Catholic Church history. As we know, the criminal organization known as Stidda, which controlled the central-southern part of Sicily, brutally killed him on the 21st of September, 1990, feast of St Matthew the evangelist.

Some thought that by silencing this 38-old magistrate they will have it their way. However, these poor people, slaves of evil, hardly realised that by doing so they opened themselves to the evil one. How significant was St John Paul II’s speech personally addressed to those who were responsible not only for such a horrible killing, but also for the many sufferings they brought on other people due to their criminal activity. It seems that Pope Wojtyła’s words, pronounced on May 9, 1993, keep reverberating and cleansing that troubled region. In the valley of the temples of Agrigento, the holy Polish Pope anathematised the mafia:

God –once said: ‘Do not kill‘. Man, any, any human agglomeration, mafia, cannot change and trample on this most holy right of God! ”. And he added: “This people, a Sicilian people, so attached to life, a people who love life, who give life, cannot always live under the pressure of a contrary civilization, a civilization of death. Here we need civilization of life! In the name of this Christ, crucified and risen, of this Christ who is life, way of truth and life, I say it to those in charge, I say it to those in charge: convertitevi! Once upon a time God’s judgment will come!

Pope Francis has followed closely his predecessor when, in his homily at Piana di Sibari, in Calabria, on Saturday 21 June 2014, during his pastoral visit to Cassano All’Jonio, said:

When adoration of money is substituted for adoration of the Lord, this pathway leads to sin, to personal interest and exploitation; when God, the Lord, is not adored, we become adorers of evil, like those who live by dishonesty and violence. Your land, so beautiful, knows the signs and consequences of this sin. This is ’ndrangheta: Adoration of evil and contempt for the common good. This evil must be fought, it must be cast out! One must say ‘no’ to it! The Church, which I know is so committed to raising awareness, must be ever more concerned that goodness prevail. Our kids demand it, our youth, in need of hope, demand it. Faith can help empower us to respond to these needs. Those who follow this evil path in life, such as members of the mafia, are not in communion with God: they are excommunicated!

The date of Livatino’s beatification, May 9th, is very significant. This was the same day when, in 1978, the brave 30-year-old journalist from Cinisi, in the province of Palermo, Peppino Impastato, who was a member of Proletarian democracy, was killed. Impastato was bold enough to fearlessly denounce the heinous activities of Cosa Nostra.

In this first liturgical memorial celebration of Blessed Rosario Livatino, it is beneficial to recall Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti’s words on this heroic Sicilian judge:

The organized crime, we can call it mafia, camorra, stidda, it is not a common crime but it is a ferocious organization and, at the same time, a form of atheism that is colored with neo-pagan tints and blasphemous Christian quotes. The underworld is unequivocally a source of death: the death of society, the death of the territory, the death of people’s souls. Criminal organizations to carry out their projects create a climate of fear that exploits poverty and unemployment, social desperation and the absence of legal certainty. Precisely for this reason the presence of the state is absolutely necessary. A strong, authoritative and above all educational presence. Like that of Rosario Livatino. I have read some newspaper reports from 1990 that tell the death of the little boy judge. He is defined as ‘a young and minute 38-year-old magistrate’ who for ‘ten years did his duty’: ultimately he was ‘an incorruptible judge’.

Cardinal Bassetti, the cardinal president of the CEI, stressed that Livatino was a fan defender of legality and freedom of this country. An authentic representative of the institutions who has managed to embody the certainty of law and also the moral culture of profound Italy: of that Italy that does not surrender to injustices and prevarications, and that does not give in to the indolent and those who adapt to the status quo: even when the status quo is represented by the mafia.

Then, Cardinal Bassetti said that a harmony between the mafia and the Gospel is inconceivable. Blessed Rosario Livatino is an eloquent example of this! I would like to sum up Livatino’s legacy with the same phrase I used to remember Don Pino Puglisi: you can’t live with the mafia! There can be no coexistence or connivance between the mafia and the Gospel. There can be no contact or any deplorable bow.

Blessed Rosario used to say: When we die, no one will ask us how much we have been believers, but credible. Then he pointed out: The magistrate’s task is to decide. Now, to decide is to choose and, at times, between numerous things or paths or solutions. And choosing is one of the most difficult things man is called to do. And it is precisely in this to choose to decide, to decide to order, that the believing magistrate can find a relationship with God. A direct relationship, because doing justice is self-realization, it is prayer, it is self-dedication to God. An indirect relationship through love for the judged person.

Blessed Rosario Livatino, a martyr of justice, pray for us!

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.