International News

Suspected Poisoning of Priest’s Chalice Linked to Italian Mafia

Father Felice Palamara. | Credit: Father Felice Palamara / Facebook

By The Tablet Staff

During the evening Mass on Feb. 24, Father Felice Palamara, a parish priest in Cessaniti, a village in south Italy, found himself once again targeted by the ‘Ndrangheta, a notorious criminal organization operating primarily in Calabria, the southern region of Italy often referred to as the “toe.”

Father Palamara, serving in the Diocese of Tropea-Mileto-Nicotera, detected an unusual odor emanating from the chalice. Laboratory tests later confirmed that bleach had been poured into the liturgical vessel. Realizing the gravity of the situation, he interrupted the liturgy to promptly report the incident to local law enforcement.

Just days earlier, unidentified vandals had damaged the priest’s car.

Bishop Attilio Nostro of Tropea-Mileto-Nicotera expressed solidarity with Father Palamara and condemned the intimidating actions of the Calabrian mafia. The diocese issued a statement on its website, acknowledging a period of hardship due to these intimidating acts.

Bishop Nostro urged the community not to succumb to violence, stating, “We must not give in to this logic, allowing ourselves to be tempted by despair and anger. We cannot accept this language; we must not respond to hatred with hatred, knowing that it is not possible to truly dialogue with those who refuse to do so.”

The bishop extended gratitude to law enforcement for their professionalism in supporting them during this challenging time and promised to continue providing constant presence and support to his priests.

Furthermore, Father Francesco Pontoriero, also from the same diocese, has recently received explicit death threats. Both priests appear to have drawn the attention of the ‘Ndrangheta due to their unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law and their resistance against the Mafia.

The infiltration of the Mafia prompted the dissolution of the Cessaniti city council by Italian President Sergio Mattarella at the end of last summer, following the recommendation of the Minister of the Interior. Cessaniti is where the two threatened priests carry out their pastoral ministry.

This story was first published by ACI Stampa, Catholic News Agency’s Italian-language news partner.