ROME (AP) — An Italian priest who stirred consciences with his anti-Mafia preaching and was gunned down by mobsters has been honored by the Vatican as a martyr.

Italian Priest Martyred Is Now Beatified by Catholic Church

File photo of Rev. Giuseppe Puglisi, 56, a parish priest in one of Palermo’s poorest neighborhoods, killed while returning home by a single pistol shot late Wednesday Sep. 15, 1993, in Palermo Sicily. The Rev. Puglisi stepped up his preaching against organized crime and led a commemoration in July for two anti-Mafia judges assassinated last year. (Photo: AP/NINO LABRUZZO)

The Rev. Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi was beatified in a ceremony Saturday in Palermo, the Sicilian capital where he worked in a mobster-infested, poor neighborhood.

He was slain in 1993, a few months after Pope John Paul II visited Sicily and urged priests to rally the faithful against organized crime.

Italian Priest Martyred Is Now Beatified by Catholic Church

Faithful gather in front of a giant picture of Rev. Giuseppe Puglisi during his beatification ceremony in Palermo, Sicily, southern Italy, Saturday, May 25, 2013. Puglisi, who stirred consciences with his anti-Mafia preaching and was gunned down by mobsters in 1993, has been honored by the Vatican as a martyr. Puglisi urged young people, often jobless and easily recruited by Cosa Nostra, to turn their backs on the mob. In the background is Mount Pellegrino. (Photo: AP/Alessandro Fucarini)

Puglisi encouraged young people, often jobless and easily recruited by Cosa Nostra, to turn their backs on the mob.

Beatification is the last formal step in the Catholic church’s process before possible sainthood.