Published August 20, 2015
ROME – Romans aghast at a spiraling mafia probe found new reason for outrage Thursday over the Hollywood-style funeral of a purported local crime boss: It was replete with a gilded, horse-drawn carriage, flower petals tossed from a helicopter and the theme music from "The Godfather" playing outside the church.
Hundreds of tearful mourners paid their final respects to Vittorio Casamonica, 65, at the San Giovanni Bosco church on Rome's outskirts. Police identified him as a leader of the Casamonica clan active in the southwest part of the capital but said he was "on the margins" of organized crime and hadn't emerged as a suspect in recent mafia investigations.
"You conquered Rome, now you'll conquer paradise," read a banner affixed to the entrance of the church. "King of Rome," read another, featuring Casamonica's image, the Colosseum and St. Peter's Basilica.
Mayor Ignazio Marino called Rome's prefect demanding to know how such a scene could have taken place and tweeted that it was "intolerable that funerals are used by the living to send mafia messages."
The parish priest, the Rev. Giancarlo Manieri, said he had no control over what happened outside the church and that inside, the funeral was celebrated normally, the ANSA news agency reported.
Lawmakers expressed outrage at the scene, which played out on TV newscasts all afternoon and evening: Six black horses pulling an antique, black-and-gold carriage to a stop in front of the church as a band played the soulful tunes of "The Godfather," and mourners tossing bouquets of flowers as the casket was carried into the church.
At a certain point, a low-flying helicopter dropped red rose petals on the crowd below.
The funeral came just a day after a judge set Nov. 5 as the start date for the trial of some 59 people charged in a spiraling mafia investigation in the capital, in which local criminal bosses allegedly managed to cement ties with city politicians over lucrative public contracts.
Rosy Bindi, president of the parliamentary anti-mafia commission, said it was "alarming" that a funeral for someone purportedly caught up in the mob could be "transformed into an ostentatious show of mafia power."
She said it was proof that the mafia had firmly infiltrated Rome and called for a redoubling of efforts to rout it from public administration.
Rome's corruption has long thrived on the connivance of city politicians, administrators and local gangsters, who have no formal ties to the traditional southern crime syndicates. A prosecutor famed for combatting Sicily's Cosa Nostra has been enlisted to help root out City Hall corruption. The Mafia-fighter was enlisted following dozens of arrests since late last year of city politicians and businessmen with links to the political right and left.
On Thursday, several commentators noted the irony that a reported mob boss was allowed an elaborate funeral at the church while the Archdiocese of Rome refused to allow a funeral at the same church in 2006 for Piergiorgio Welby, then the symbol of Italy's right-to-die movement.
Welby, who had muscular dystrophy and was unable to eat, speak or breathe on his own, got his wish to die in December 2006 when a doctor disconnected his respirator. His case split the overwhelmingly Catholic nation but the local church defended its decision to deny him a Catholic funeral, arguing that allowing it would have legitimized attitudes contrary to God's law.