Blessed Rosario Livatino, a Catholic judge brutally killed by the mafia in 1990, was beatified Sunday in the Cathedral of Agrigento, Sicily.
Pope Francis commended the beatification of the young judge, calling him a “martyr of justice and faith” at the end of his Regina Coeli address on May 9.
“In his service to the community as an upright judge, he never allowed himself to be corrupted. He strove to judge, not to condemn, but to redeem,” Pope Francis said from the window of the Apostolic Palace.
“He always placed his work ‘under the protection of God;’ for this he became a witness of the Gospel until his heroic death. May his example be for everyone, especially magistrates, an incentive to be loyal defenders of the law and liberty,” he said.
Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect for the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, offered the beatification Mass in the Cathedral of Agrigento on the morning of May 9.
“Livatino is a witness of the justice of the Kingdom of God. While Livatino is a hero of the State and of the law, he is also a martyr of Christ,” Semeraro said in his homily.
A relic of Livatino, a shirt stained with his dried blood from the day of his murder, was venerated at the Mass in a transparent reliquary.
Cardinal Semeraro read out the beatification declaration from the pope: “We grant Venerable Rosario Livatino, lay person and martyr who was a credible witness of the Gospel in the service of justice, can henceforth be called blessed.” His feast day will be Oct. 29.
Livatino worked as a prosecutor in Sicily dealing with the criminal activity of the mafia throughout the 1980s. He confronted what Italians later called the “Tangentopoli,” the corrupt system of mafia bribes and kickbacks given for public works contracts.
At the age of 37, he served as a judge at the Court of Agrigento.
He was driving unescorted toward the Agrigento courthouse when another car hit his vehicle, sending him off the road. He ran from the crashed vehicle into a field, but was shot in the back and then killed with more gunshots.
Today a plaque on the highway marks the spot where Livatino was killed. It reads: “Martyr of justice.” On Dec. 21, Pope Francis elevated this title when he recognized the judge as a martyr killed “in hatred of the faith.”
His legal legacy lives on through the work of the Rosario Livatino Study Center, which is dedicated to issues of life, the family, and religious freedom.
After a controversy erupted earlier this year over the translation of Livatino’s relics from his hometown to the Cathedral of Agrigento, it was announced Feb. 19 that the martyred judge’s body would remain in the town of Canicattì, about 25 miles northeast of Agrigento.
Livatino is buried in the chapel of the Canicattì cemetery, a town of about 35,000 people and his birthplace.
Pope Francis wrote a preface to a book about Rosario Livatino published in March in which he reflected on the lessons of Rosario Livatino’s life and death.
The pope recalled that the judge was shot dead by young men paid by two Sicilian organized crime groups, the Stidda and Cosa Nostra.
He said that Livatino’s last words were: “Picciotti [young mafiosi], what did I do to you?”
Pope Francis 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."
Livatino did everything “always and only in the name of Christ, without ever abandoning faith and justice, even in the imminent risk of death,” he said. “This is the seed that was planted, this is the fruit that will come.”