A gangster’s funeral, Italy style
Mafia supremo Vittoria Casamonica was buried in a manner that looked like something from the Godfather. In fact, it sounded like it too as, incredibly, the streets of Rome rang out to the theme music to Mario Puzo's famous movie. Only in Italy..
It was said of the executed Thane of Cawdor in Macbeth that, ‘nothing became him in life like the leaving it.’ One cannot help feeling that the family of Vittorio Casamonica might have taken the idea a little too far.
Casamonica died last week. His funeral cortege, led by an ornate black coach drawn by six black horses, travelled 20km through the streets of south eastern Rome. Behind a black Rolls Royce containing some of the family, people stood on the roofs of white Mercedes scattering flowers to the thousands of mourners, and as they neared the church a helicopter flew overhead scattering rose petals.
In the square outside the Don Bosco church in the Tuscolano district, incredibly, the theme music to Mario Puzo’s The Godfather played. At the church there were posters. One showed the late Vittorio walking through the streets carrying a cross. Another read, 'as you have conquered in Rome so you will in Paradise'.
The problem for Paradise is going to be exactly how Don Vittorio will conquer there.
The family reacted to initial outrage by suggesting that the Casamonicas were hard working businessmen and that several had put €50 in a kitty to give Vittorio a good send off (that would be 2-3,000 of them).
The opinion of most of Rome, by contrast, is that the Casamonica clan are an unpleasant group of hoods dealing in fraud, extortion, girls and cocaine: the usual stuff. And a bit of violence. Of gypsy origin, they arrived in the 1970s and quickly became one of the four ruling families in the capital.
Vittorio's son, presumably head of the clan, was under house arrest at the time but given an urgent day release for the obsequies by the local carabinieri.
The newspapers are appalled at the flagrancy of all this: that an almost caricature mobster funeral could take place in the nation's capital city. And, to match their mood, there was the usual outrage among those charged with handling these matters.
Rome mayor Ignazio Marino, with exquisitely unfortunate timing, is on holiday in the Caribbean. Angelino Alfano, former Berlusconi pal and interior minister in the ruling coalition, has blustered but looks increasingly out of his depth.
The Prefect of Rome (great title) has promised a full report, but it seems that the procession was supervised by at least ten police as well as the carabinieri. And some are asking another question. We are about to have the so-called 'maxi-trial' of 59 people involved in the recent Mafia Capitale corruption scandal.
Think of the music to The Godfather playing outside the church: could this be organised crime publicly raising two fingers to the authorities, saying: go ahead with your show trial, but we behave however we want?
And what of the role of the Church in all this? The priest who conducted the service, Don Manieri, said he would certainly do it again, and that he had no means of knowing anything about the deceased. But this scarcely rings true.
This very same church, 10 years ago, was the centre of the Piergiorgio Welby controversy; where they refused a church funeral to a right to die campaigner suffering from MS. There will inevitably be comparisons.
And people will remember that Pope Francis himself has excommunicated mafioso families, denying them access to the services of the church, denying them absolution. Was this just ignored?
The very best you can say is that Don Vittorio -- why does a mobster rate the same honorific as the priest? -- has been treated with a lot more respect than he deserved and that the church has allowed itself to become part of this gangster’s charade. Many will say more than that.
They will say that the Church and the mob have had an unholy relationship since the war, filling a space left vacant by the civil authorities. It is now time for the state to occupy that space, to the benefit of the Church and of those who have to live under mob rule.
Pope Francis understood that. It is high time Interior Minister Alfano did too.
Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelance writer, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here
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