ROME — Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples ordered the removal from a church of two religious paintings that were donated by a mafia boss who led one of the prominent clans in the Camorra crime syndicate.
In a statement published March 29, the Archdiocese of Naples said Battaglia gave the order after he was “recently made aware” of the paintings placed at the entrance of a church in the archdiocese with an inscription that read, “In devotion of Lorenzo Nuvoletta.”
The late crime boss led the infamous Nuvoletta clan in the Neapolitan town of Marano di Napoli until his arrest in 1990. He died of liver cancer in 1994 while serving the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.
The archdiocese said the archbishop ordered the removal of the paintings — one depicting Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii and the other St. Rita — to avoid confusing the faithful “with actions that could even remotely be traced back to an ambiguity between the Gospel and life.”
The decision by Battaglia, who was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Archdiocese of Naples in December, was meant to “reaffirm the primacy of conscience, enlightened by faith which invites us to love truth and justice” and to “give an unequivocal example of the incompatibility between the paths of the Gospel and those of iniquity at any level.”
The archdiocese also said the paintings will be replaced with different images of Our Lady of Pompeii and St. Rita “so that faith may continue to walk with the hearts and legs of those who nourish these healthy devotions.”
According to Avvenire, the daily newspaper owned by the Italian bishops’ conference, the Nuvoletta clan was among the most powerful families of the Camorra crime organization and was affiliated with the Sicilian Mafia.
Battaglia’s actions are in line with Pope Francis’ condemnation of the mafia and its use of religious acts of piety to justify crime and violence.
During his visit to the southern Italian region of Calabria in 2014, the pope said that even if mob families continue to go to Mass and decorate their homes and hideouts with religious pictures, they have cut themselves off from communion with the church and with God.
“Those who follow the path of evil, like the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God; they are excommunicated!” the pope said.