May 8th and 9th mark the anniversary of two important moments in Sicilian anti-mafia history. In 1978, Giuseppe “Peppino” Impastato, a political activist who vociferously exposed and confronted the mafia, was murdered by the unscrupulous cell in his hometown of Cinisi. And in 1993, just down the street from this temple, pictured (said to be the Temple of Castor and Pollux at Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples), Pope John Paul II delivered an historic mass at the end of which he condemned the criminal underworld. Describing the Cosa Nostra as “a culture of death” and “an enemy of human dignity and civil peace,” he exclaimed, “In the name of Christ, I say to those responsible: Convert! One day you will face the judgment of God!”
It was a turning point for the people of Sicily who recognized the pontiff’s words as a call to action against this disease of evil and corruption. More than 25 years later, the outcome of John Paul’s charge is a safer, more peaceful Sicily.
In 2002, Gaetano Badalamenti, the powerful boss of Cinisi, Sicily, was sentenced to life in prison for Impastato’s assassination, proving that justice is possible when there exists a community effort and a cooperative determination to make change occur.