Vittorio Casamonica funeral: Anti-Mafia campaigners demand answers from Catholic Church and police over Hollywood-style send-off

Authorities rush to defend themselves after lavish procession for notorious head of Casamonica Mafia clan

Michael Day
Tuesday 25 August 2015 21:18
The horse-drawn hearse outside the Don Bosco parish church
The horse-drawn hearse outside the Don Bosco parish church

Anti-Mafia campaigners are demanding that the Catholic Church and Rome’s police chiefs explain how and why the city honoured a notorious mob boss with a Hollywood-style funeral.

The coffin of mobster Vittorio Casamonica, 65, was paraded in a gothic horse-draw carriage on Thursday afternoon, while a hovering helicopter scattered rose petals from above and an orchestra played the theme music of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather.

Outraged anti-Mafia campaigners noted that the dead man was no hero but a prominent member of the Casamonica clan, which is mired in drug trafficking, racketeering and prostitution in the southeast of the capital.

Mourners attend the funerals of Vittorio Casamonica, identified by officials as one of the bosses of the Casamonica clan, in Rome

“Never again. Rome cannot be defaced by those who would like to turn it into a Godfather set,” tweeted Matteo Orfini, an MP for the centre-left Democratic Party and its spokesman for the capital. Fellow Democratic Party MP Ernesto Magorno tweeted that the event was “one of the ugliest pages in the history of Italy”. Nicola Zingaretti, President of the Lazio region, said the funeral had sent out a “terrible message”.

Rosy Bindi, head of the parliamentary anti-Mafia commission, said the funeral was a “serious wound for Italy”.

An image of the controversial saint Padre Pio adorned Casamonica’s coffin, while posters with slogans such as “You have conquered Rome, now you’ll conquer heaven” and “Vittorio Casamonica, king of Rome” appeared in front of the Don Bosco parish church. In the latter image, the dead criminal was decked out in white with a crucifix to look like the Pope.

The prominent anti-Mafia campaigner Roberto Saviano, who is under permanent armed guard since the publication of his book Gomorrah, an exposé of the Camorra Mafia in Naples, hit out at the Church’s apparent acquiescence in the face of such a tawdry event.

“The Church that denied a funeral to Piergiorgio Welby [an Italian man who ended his own life after suffering incurable muscular dystrophy] yesterday granted one in full regalia to the boss, Vittorio Casamonica,” he tweeted.

Rose petals were thrown from a helicopter and an orchestra played the theme tune of the celebrated mobster film The Godfather

But the howls of outrage were quickly drowned out by the sound of officials rushing to cover their own backs.

The Don Bosco parish priest, Don Giancarlo Manieri, who is from the Salesian order which educated Silvio Berlusconi, said he had been unaware of the huge rumpus outside the Church ahead of the funeral service.

Rome’s police chief, Franco Gabrielli, admitted on Friday that the glitzy funeral of a Mafia boss was “a serious matter”, but denied that police officials had known about plans for the event.

“It shouldn’t have happened. But it did happen,” Mr Gabrielli said. “The security apparatus failed to recognise the signs of what was about to happen, and that was down to us,” he added.

Even more worrying were the large number of well-wishers who turned out to say farewell to the mobster. “He was a good person,” one mourner told reporters. After the service, the coffin was taken from the church in a Rolls-Royce and the band played the soundtrack of another famous film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

“Will they need another funeral to understand who really rules Italy’s capital?” the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, Italy’s second-largest parliamentary party, said in a statement.

The spectacle came just days after it emerged that Roman magistrates are planning a 1980s Cosa Nostra-style “maxi-trial”, in a secure prison-court in November, to try the 59 suspects indicted for their part in the colossal Mafia Capitale scandal. The original Palermo maxi-trial of 1986-87, which saw 360 members of the Sicilian Mafia and their associates convicted in a single process, was seen as the state’s first major blow against the organisation.

The Mafia Capitale group, made up of crooked businessmen, politicians and officials led by a former far-right terrorist, hung the capital out to dry for the best part of 10 years, skimming hundreds of millions off everything from road maintenance to migrant accommodation centres.

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