Given the many criminal organisations and gangs worldwide that have distorted the true role and image of Mary, a pontifical academy has unveiled a new department dedicated to fighting ‘this deviant spirituality’.
The Pontifical Marian International Academy will be working with the Italian government and law enforcement on a number of initiatives through the department dedicated to the ‘analysis, study and monitoring of criminal and Mafia-related phenomena’ and to promoting ‘a theology of liberation from the Mafia’, according to its website.
Pope Francis praised the ‘important initiative’ in a letter sent to Franciscan Fr Stefano Cecchin, the academy’s president, dated 15th August, the feast of the Assumption of Mary.
‘Marian devotion is a religious-cultural heritage whose original purity needs safeguarding,’ the pope wrote, according to an excerpt of the letter, published by Vatican News on 20th August.
Protecting the heritage includes ‘liberating it from superfluous elements, powers or social conditioning that do not comply with the Gospel criteria of justice, liberty, honesty and solidarity’, the pope wrote.
In particular, the pope ‘noted with pleasure’ the creation of the new department and a conference the academy will hold on 18th September with other Church leaders and public entities for finding effective ways to raise awareness and begin a cultural shift toward a correct understanding of Mary, human dignity, civic duty and legality.
Fr Cecchin told Vatican News that the figure of Mary is often distorted and exploited by criminal organisations as a way to make people more submissive and ‘turn them into slaves’.
They twist Mary’s image and acceptance of God’s will into a false role model of a woman who is God’s ‘slave’, compliant, submissive and passively resigned to the fate of her son, who dies at the hands of the powerful, he said.
They use religion to ‘enslave and not help people live an authentic religiosity’, he said.
Another problem, he said, is manipulating the Catholic faith to promote superstitions, magic and special powers to frighten and manipulate people, especially for making money off of them by promising they can be healed or have their problems solved, he added.
The main task of the pontifical academy is to offer ‘a healthy formation’ in the study, understanding and theology of Mary, he said.
Picture: Demonstrators are pictured in a file photo holding banners during a demonstration in Rome to commemorate the victims of the mafia and demand an end to the stranglehold of organised crime on southern Italy. (CNS photo/Ciro De Luca, Reuters).