Rosario Livatino

Rosario Livatino – “a martyr of justice and faith”

Robaird O’Cearbhaill
Hong Kong Correspondent

Rosario Livatino, a mafia-assassinated judge was praised again by Pope Francis, last month, during a congregation of the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists at the Vatican’s Benediction Hall. Livatino who also became Blessed in May 2021 was singled out by the Pope.

“May Our Lady, whom we venerate today as the Virgin of silence and listening in the Holy House of Loreto, and St Joseph, just man, support you in your commitment. May the witness of Bl. Rosario Livatino also inspire you,” he said.

   Bl. Livatino, the Pope stated for the beatification ceremony, was “a martyr of justice and faith,” a judge who had “courageously carried out his profession as a form of lay mission,” said the Vatican press release about the event.

Livatino’s courage and generosity were evident while judges were facing increasing mafia threats. He declined government security escort. 

“He was a single man and didn’t want his security guards to leave orphaned children and widowed wives,” a secondary school friend Guissepe Palill told the Jesuit America magazine. 

Livatino became an enemy of Italian criminal gangs in Sicily where he was a prosecutor. He specialized in cases of  criminal activity of the mafia during the 1980s. Livatino targeted what Italians later called the “Tangentopoli,” corrupt mafia bribes given for public works contracts.

Livatino was gunned down in 1990 in his car driving to work, via his usual journey. Just before he died he asked “What did I do to you?”  echoing Jesus’ words from the cross on Mount Calvary.

The four gang killers were later found guilty of murder and imprisoned with life sentences. 

 Rosario Livatino: Justice Requires Love, his biography, was inspired by his martyrdom. It was written by the then student, Maria Amata di Lorenzo. She was moved to such an extent by the assassination, that she decided to write a detailed story. A project of passion, it took seven years of research before the writing began, published ten years after his death. 

Livatino, according to di Lorenzo’s interviews, was unusually religious as a child, as the mother recalls. 

His mother said, “We didn’t talk much about religion, but once the religion teacher asked what the Bible meant to us, Rosario wrote: ‘The Bible is the chest in which is enclosed the most precious jewel that exists: the Word of God.’”

As Pope Francis said for the beatification ceremony: “In his service to the common good, as an exemplary judge who never succumbed to corruption, he sought to judge not to condemn but to redeem…”

To the jurists last month at the Vatican meeting the Pope urged them to learn from “heroic” Livatino and be,  like him, “faithful defenders of the rule of law and of freedom.”

Pope Francis also said: “To Rosario Angelo Livatino, today also through his beatification, we give thanks for the example he leaves us, for having fought every day the good fight of faith with humility, meekness and mercy.”

“Rosario was convinced that he did nothing special, but the extraordinary was in everything he achieved,” said Mr Palilla, now president of the association “Friends of Judge Rosario Livatino,” which promotes his devotion in support of his canonization. 

(Photo: Vatican News)