Funeral held in Montreal for Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto
MONTREAL - Police, bystanders and hundreds of mourners were on hand Monday for Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto's funeral in the same church where his son and father were remembered after their violent deaths.
Bells pealed as Rizzuto's gold-coloured casket was carried out of the Notre-Dame-de-la-Defense Church in the heart of Montreal's Little Italy.
Family members left in a convoy of nearly a dozen limousines.
Elaborate flower arrangements, including one in the shape of a golf bag â€” a nod to one of Rizzuto's favourite pastimes â€” were tied to the bumpers.
The traditional Roman Catholic service lasted about an hour.
"It was a very simple funeral," said Igino Incantalupo, the priest who oversaw the ceremony.
"People displayed a very, very surprising level of calm and seriousness."
People who tried to get in were screened and asked if they were family.
Rizzuto, 67, died of natural causes in a Montreal hospital last Monday. His death was a far cry from the violent endings that befell his son Nick in 2009 and his father Nicolo in 2010.
Nick Rizzuto was gunned down on the street, while Nicolo Rizzuto was shot by a sniper in his Montreal mansion.
There was a heavy police presence outside the church Monday, with cop cars directing traffic and investigators in unmarked vehicles snapping photos of mourners.
Despite the bone-chilling cold, a crowd of people watched the scene unfold from across the street.
Marjolaine Martin, 65, grew up nearby and said she was attracted by the mystery of the family.
She was on hand for the funeral of Rizzuto's father and son as well. She said Monday's event felt like the "end of a dynasty."
"When I think that when I grew up here and played in the neighbourhood, and they were probably around here," Martin said.
"We don't know their secrets, that's for sure, but their names are mentioned all the time in the newspapers and on the news."
Experts say Rizzuto was the leader of an organized crime ring that had influence across Canada and beyond.
After being released from a U.S. prison in 2012, Rizzuto reputedly regained control over much of his turf.
Mafia watchers say it's unclear who will take over â€” and some have speculated there could be a period of violence if a clear successor isn't established.
There have been questions in the past about whether those with Mafia ties should have the right to a Catholic burial.
Earlier this year, a bishop in Italy issued a decree that says convicted mobsters will be denied a church funeral.
Nicole Fortier, a longtime parishioner at Notre-Dame-de-la-Defense who also came to watch, said she has no issue with the church's decision to accord Rizzuto a funeral.
"We're all humans," she said. "It's not for us to judge."
Many bystanders recalled Rizzuto as a charming, friendly man.
Flavio Codarin used to wait tables for Rizzuto at a neighbourhood cafe. He said the crime boss was always quick to say hello and had a big smile.
"He was very kind to me," Codarin recalled.
"He would say, 'Watch that no one puts poison in (my food).' So he was dependent on me," he said with a loud laugh.
- with files from Melanie Marquis