On September 21, 1990, Rosario Livatino, the magistrate for the court of Agrigento in Sicily, was driving to his office unescorted when a car drove him off the road. As he fled on foot, he was pursued by mafia gunmen who shot him in the back.
For over a decade Livatino had been investigating mafia corruption, first as a prosecutor and then as a magistrate. In pursuing this work he knew the risks he was facing, and he prayed God to forgive him for putting his parents and family in danger. Nevertheless, he regarded his work as a deep expression of his faith, his commitment to justice, and the cause of charity.
In a speech, he said, “The duty of the magistrate is to decide; however, to decide is also to choose.. . . And it is precisely in this choosing in order to decide, in deciding so as to put things in order, that the judge who believes may find a relationship with God. It is a direct relationship, because to administer justice is to realize oneself, to pray, to dedicate oneself to God. It is an indirect relationship, mediated by love for the person under judgment.”
After Livatino’s death, his Bible was found to be filled with copious notations, and on many of his notes he wrote the acronym “STD,” from the Latin for “under the protection of God.” During a trip to Sicily in 1993, Pope John Paul II called Livatino a “martyr of justice and indirectly of faith.” In 2020 Pope Francis formally recognized Livatino’s death as martyrdom, preparing the way for his beatification in 2021.
“Justice is necessary, but not sufficient, and can and must be overcome by the law of charity which is the law of love, love of neighbor and God.” —Blessed Rosario Livatino