Italy: Felonious Friars?

Despite the tension in the courtroom, four defendants remained calm and moved their lips in what seemed to be silent prayer. The impulse was natural: the four were robed and cowled Capuchin friars, accused with three laymen of operating a spectacular extortion-murder ring in racket-ridden Sicily.

The gang began operations in 1956 in the small island town of Mazzarino, site of a 200-year-old Capuchin monastery. One of its first alleged victims was Father Agrippino, whose evening prayers were interrupted one November night by a buckshot blast into the wall beside him. A few days later, Carmelo Lo Bartolo, the monastery gardener,...

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