Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi was killed in Palermo on September 15, 1993, his 56th birthday. A courageous defender of the poor in the Sicilian capital’s inner city neighborhood of Brancaccio, Blessed Father Puglisi worked tirelessly to convince young people that there was a better life than organized crime. He was extremely outspoken about the Mafia and preached against collusion, intimidation, and omerta–the code of silence. As the BBC reported, “He was famous for a rhetorical question, which he used as a catch phrase in order to encourage Sicilians to stand up and fight organised crime: ‘And what if somebody did something?’” Despite numerous threats against him, he continued to teach the word of Christ and support men, women, and children in need with the hopes that they would peacefully join his anti-Mafia mission.
Once on trial, his killers revealed that they were haunted by Father Pino’s smile. They recalled that when they gunned him down in front of the church where he preached, he said, while looking them in the eyes, “I’ve been expecting you.” Six men are currently serving life sentences for his murder.
Blessed Father Puglisi was declared a martyr by the Catholic Church and beatified on May 25, 2013, when more than 50,000 people attended the ceremony.