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Poisoned chalice: bleach smell alerts Italian priest to apparent mafia threat

<span>Felice Felice Palamara: ‘My revenge is called love, my shield forgiveness, my armour mercy.’</span><span>Photograph: Facebook</span>
Felice Felice Palamara: ‘My revenge is called love, my shield forgiveness, my armour mercy.’Photograph: Facebook

A parish priest in southern Italy was about to take a sip from a chalice of wine when he realised it was laced with bleach in what is believed to have been a mafia-related threat.

Father Felice Palamara had just consecrated the chalice of water and wine before celebrating the eucharist during evening mass on Saturday at San Nicola di Pannaconi church in Cessaniti, a small town in the Calabria region, and as he prepared to drink from it he notice a strange smell.

The mass was interrupted and laboratory tests later confirmed that the mix contained bleach, triggering a police investigation.

Palamara, who has often spoken out against the ‘Ndrangheta, the mafia organisation that originated in Calabria, told local media that he had received several death threats during his time at the church. His car has been vandalised twice in recent months.

The priest, who now has a police escort, wrote on social media: “My revenge is called love, my shield forgiveness, my armour mercy … I will not dwell on obstacles, nor will I be frightened by the darkness.”

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The local bishop, Attilio Nostro, said the diocese was “experiencing a moment of suffering due to acts of intimidation that have nothing to do with the normal Christian life of the parishes”.

He added: “For this reason, I appeal anew to the Christian communities not to be discouraged by this language of violence. We must not cede to this logic, allowing ourselves to be tempted by unease and anger.”

Palamara is not the only local priest to be the target of the alleged mafia threats. Father Francesco Pontoriero, of the San Basilio Magno parish, found a dead cat on the bonnet of his car as he returned from dinner in Cessaniti.

It is not uncommon for priests in Italy to live under police protection. Father Maurizio Patriciello, a priest in Caivano, close to Naples, who for years has fought against mafia-related crime, has two bodyguards.