Attempted poisoning of Italian priest during mass

Country: Italy

Date of incident: February 24, 2024

On 24 February, an unknown person attempted to poison Father Felice Palamara, the parish priest of San Nicola di Pannaconi, by adding bleach to the altar wine. Police suspect the local Mafia behind the attack.

On Saturday afternoon, Father Felice was celebrating Mass with the parish congregation. After pouring water and wine from the ampullae into the chalice, he noticed an unpleasant smell which alarmed him. He immediately interrupted the celebration and told the congregation that he was not feeling well. Further analysis confirmed the presence of enough bleach in the cruets to have potentially killed him. According to the police the most probable explanation is that the crime was committed by the local mafia but have not been able to confirm this. 

The priest wrote on Facebook: 'My revenge is called love, my shield forgiveness, my armour mercy'. Then, with the police keeping him under 24-hour surveillance, he wrote: 'Whatever has been done, for me he is and will remain this brother who can only be loved, even if justice must take its course'. Bishop Attilio Nostro expressed his solidarity and said: 'We cannot accept this language, we must not respond to hatred with hatred, knowing that it is not possible to truly dialogue with those who refuse to do so.'

Don Palamara has experienced multiple instances of intimidation. Recently, his car was damaged for the second time while parked near the church. Additionally, he has received several anonymous letters containing death threats in his mailbox. This escalation joins a series of attacks against two other priests in the region who have also spoken out against the 'Ndrangheta' in the past. Don Francesco Pontoriero, the parish priest of nearby Cessaniti, recently received an intimidating gesture when a dead cat was left on the hood of his car next to threatening letters (see media reports). In addition, a man set fire to the car belonging to Don Marcos, the parish priest of the church of Sant'Andrea del Pizzone in Francolise (case link).

The recent increase in attacks on the Catholic Church in Italy, particularly in the south, is likely to add to its ongoing conflict with the Italian Mafia since the 1990s (National Catholic Register,The Guardian). 

Sources: The GuardianKurierCorriere della SerraQuotidiano NazionaleGazzette del Sudonline

Image:Quotidiano Nazionale