The organized crime system oppressing the city of Naples, Italy is known as the camorra. The Neapolitan bingo game in which each number codifies a secret meaning is known as tombola. This is the camorra’s tombola.
Number 37 means “the monk” in tombola. Giuseppe Diana was a streetwise Catholic priest born to a wealthy family in Campania, Italy. After graduating in Theology and Philosophy, he became a clergyman in 1982. A few years later, he became one of few to challenge the camorra openly.
On Christmas day of 1991 in Casal di Principe, one of the bloodiest towns in Campania, during one of the bloodiest moments of camorra history, the faithful were shaken by a new parable set in Naples, rather than Bethlehem: Don Giuseppe Diana invited his flock to rebel against the camorra.
Quoting Ezekiel and Jeremiah, the priest spoke out loudly. His words could not be misunderstood: they resounded with the “responsibility to be a sign of contradiction” in a territory ruled by camorra “who impose with violence, weapons in hand, unacceptable rules. It is finally clear that absence of civil institution has permitted the infiltration of camorra power in all society levels. Camorra fills the empty space that the (Italian) State has left behind. Camorra is itsself a state, parallel to the official one.”
This speech, printed and distributed in each single church of Casal di Principe, titled “For the Love of My People, I Will Not Fall Silent,” immediately became a rallying cry for disobedience and fearlessness against the Neapolitan mafia. Since then, Diana has become one of the first to denounce the new phenomenon of the “entrepreneur camorra,” linked to politics and institution.
Diana never stopped his battle against the criminals polluting his city. Three years later, in 1994, he was 36 when a gunman shot two bullets into his head.
Post by Michaela A.G. Iaccarino
Illustration: Fanqiao Wang