Pope decrees Italian judge murdered by Mafia can be beatified

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Pope Francis holds weekly general audience.

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis decreed on Tuesday that Italian judge Rosario Livatino, who was killed by the Mafia in Sicily in 1990, was a martyr for the faith and could be beatified, or declared "Blessed".

Livatino, who was a devout Roman Catholic, was gunned down after a Mafia hit squad ran his car off the road as he was driving on a Sicilian highway.

Known as the "boy judge" because he looked younger than his 37 years, Livatino had led many investigations into the mob at a time when Sicilian clans were involved in a full-blown war.

The decree of martyrdom proposed by the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints and approved by the pope means there is no need for a miracle to be attributed to Livatino's intercession with God for him to be beatified.

A miracle would have to be attributed to Livatino in order for him to be declared a saint.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that only God performs miracles, but that saints who are believed to be with God in heaven intercede on behalf of people who pray to them. A miracle is usually the medically inexplicable healing of a person.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)