Film Highlights Slain Priest Who Stood Up to the Mafia

"In the Sunlight" Tells Story of Father Puglisi

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ROME, JAN. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- "In the Sunlight," a film about the life of a priest killed by the Sicilian Mafia in front of his parish church, has been released in Italy.



Father Giuseppe "Pino" Puglisi was "guilty" of concern for the children of the Brancaccio neighborhood of Palermo, a value that conflicted with Mafia interests and cost him his life.

The priest was murdered Sept. 15, 1993, his 56th birthday. His cause for beatification is being studied.

The film recounts the life of the priest who, unarmed, decided to change the mentality of those with whom he himself grew up. He opened a shelter for children.

His work was cut short by the neighborhood "bosses" who turned their threats into deeds. Father Puglisi reacted to his killers with a smile, and this has been the reason for the conversion of one of them, who has collaborated with the law since 1997.

Directed by Roberto Faenza, the film focuses on the isolation that marked the last months of the priest's life, but also the hope -- captured in images of children.

Luca Zingaretti, a television actor, plays the part of the Palermo priest.

"The Mafia is not just a problem of Sicilians," Zingaretti said. "I am aware of all the problems and judicial questions in our country. … It is everyone's duty to be informed and not forget" such events.

The message Father Puglisi left, according to Cardinal Salvatore De Giorgi, archbishop of Palermo, is that "one must never stop before obstacles."

"One must not be afraid of those who threaten, [but] only of those who can destroy spiritual values," the cardinal told Vatican Radio.

The part of the film that most moved the cardinal was "the final scene, when all the boys surround his mortal remains."

"In reality, when Father Puglisi's body was taken to the cathedral, I was told that many children were there the whole night and during the day to pray and cry, but with the sign of hope," he recalled.

Eleven years later, Cardinal De Giorgi has noted "particularly in parishes ... an ever greater choral and courageous position, and I can say that I have seen the new generations becoming more aware also as regards the Mafia."