Archbishop in Sicily bans mafia from being 'godfathers'

Jon Sharman
The village of Corleone lies within the Archbishop's diocese: Youtube

An archbishop in Sicily has banned mafia gangsters from claiming the title of "godfather" at baptisms.

Michele Pennisi said he wanted to reclaim the term and to challenge the notion crime bosses had a paternal side to them.

The Archbishop, whose diocese is near Palermo and includes the famous village of Corleone, featured in Mario Puzo's The Godfather, told AFP: "The mafia has always taken the term godfather from the Church to give its bosses an air of religious respectability.

"Whereas in fact, the two worlds are completely incompatible."

He said he could only enforce the ban if someone had been convicted of mafia activity. But Christian forgiveness was open to all, including mobsters, he added.

In 2014 Pope Francis excommunicated the mafia for the "adoration of evil and contempt of the common good".

The pope said the church would use its full force to combat organised crime.

"Our children are asking for it, our young people are asking for it," he said.