Fr Giuseppe Puglisi was born in the Palermo suburb of Brancaccio on 15 September 1937 and was killed by the Mafia in the same suburb on 15 September 1993. He entered the diocesan seminary in Palermo in 1953 and was ordained a priest by Cardinal Ernesto Ruffini on 2 July 1960. In 1969 he was appointed vice-rector of the minor archiepiscopal seminary. In September of that year, he took part in a mission in the earthquake-stricken town of Montevago. From these early years he followed young people in particular and took an interest in the social problems of the city’s most marginalised neighbourhoods. He closely followed the work of the Second Vatican Council and immediately disseminated its documents among the faithful, with a special focus on the renewal of the liturgy, the role of the laity, the values of ecumenism and local churches. His desire was always to incarnate the proclamation of Jesus Christ in the territory, thus taking on all the problems to make them his own in the Christian community. On 1 October 1970 he was appointed parish priest of Godrano, a small town in the province of Palermo – marked by a bloody feud – where he remained until 31 July 1978, succeeding in reconciling families torn apart by violence with the power of forgiveness. On 29 September 1990, he was appointed parish priest in San Gaetano, Brancaccio. On 29 January 1993, he opened the ‘Our Father’ centre in Brancaccio, which became a reference point for young people and families in the neighbourhood. He collaborated with lay people in the area to demand civil rights in the borgata, denouncing collusion and malfeasance and suffering threats and intimidation. He was killed in front of his house on his birthday, 15 September 1993. Father Puglisi was killed because he was perceived by Cosa Nostra as a danger. The probable motive was identified in Father Puglisi’s pastoral action. The priest was able to attract the young people of the neighbourhood and channel the energies of very different individuals and groups into Brancaccio. Ultimately, Puglisi was killed because, by proclaiming the Gospel, he had made Mafia domination over minds and hearts more uncertain.
His stole is kept in the basilica. From the words of Don Pino Puglisi: ‘Jesus said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple, let him take up his cross daily and follow me”. It may seem a frightening thing to take up the cross to be a disciple of Jesus, but if we want to grow, this will be the logic. If we want to remain immature, then we will reject the logic of the cross, the logic of the grain of wheat. Whoever wants to grow must accept the logic of the grain of wheat… We must live in grace: this is the secret of not being afraid of death, of not dying. The secret to knowing how to face it with courage, with joy indeed, is to die during life, to mortify oneself, to know how to detach oneself, that is, to know how to live tending towards heaven’. He was proclaimed Blessed on 25 May 2013.