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Italy: Mafia stronghold of Corleone has new ‘godfather’ saga

In this file photo taken on April 12, 2006, a road sign announces the town of Corleone, Italy. Premier Matteo Renzi’s Cabinet dissolved Corleone’s municipal government because of Mafia infiltrations and put its City Hall under temporary control of the interior ministry. Corleone is the Sicilian town inspiring the fictional crime clan’s name in “The Godfather” novel and movie. (Luca Bruno / AP)
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2006, a road sign announces the town of Corleone, Italy. Premier Matteo Renzi’s Cabinet dissolved Corleone’s municipal government because of Mafia infiltrations and put its City Hall under temporary control of the interior ministry. Corleone is the Sicilian town inspiring the fictional crime clan’s name in “The Godfather” novel and movie. (Luca Bruno / AP)
By Colleen Barry Associated Press

MILAN (AP) – The Mafia stronghold of Corleone has produced another godfather saga, but this one is unlikely to end up as a movie.

A bishop in Sicily is contesting a parish priest’s decision to allow the son of Italy’s most notorious mobster to become his niece’s godfather during a baptism ceremony in December.

Archbishop Michele Pennisi was quoted Thursday by the news agency ANSA as saying that neither he nor the Vatican hierarchy had been informed the Corleone priest’s plans to allow Giuseppe Salvatore “Salvo” Riina – the son of Salvatore “Toto” Riina – to become a godfather in the Catholic Church.

A godfather “must be the guarantor of the faith, must set an example with his actions. I am not aware that the young man has ever expressed words of repentance for his conduct,” Pennisi said, in comments confirmed by his office.

Pennisi’s position is in close alignment with the Vatican. During a trip to Calabria in 2014, Pope Francis declared that all mobsters are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church. More recently, the archbishop in southern Reggio Calabria-Bova, Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini, has requested permission to suspend the practice of assigning godparents in a bid to avoid creating conflict around the sacrament of baptism.

The elder Riina was captured in 1993 after years as a fugitive, and is serving a life sentence after being convicted of several murders. The younger Riina served an eight-year sentence for Mafia association, and was not permitted to return to his hometown, Corleone, to live upon his release six years ago.

Instead, he was assigned to live in the northern city of Padua, where his release terms restrict his movements, forcing him to obtain permission from a judge to travel for the baptism.

Corleone is the ancestral home and surname of the title characters in “The Godfather” films.

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