The Catholic Church in Italy has taken a stand against the mafia after a bishop refused to confirm a boy whose mob boss father had murdered a priest.

Cardinal Paolo Romeo, the Archbishop of Palermo, refused to give the sacrament to the 17-year-old boy who was due to be confirmed along with other 49 youths.

It is believed that the boy is to receive the sacrament, but in private.

"This does not mean that children must pay for their fathers' mistakes," Romeo said, and condemned the outrage sparked following his refusal to confirm the boy as "opportunistic".

The boy's father, Giuseppe Graviano, was sentenced to life in prison after he had killed several people, including Father Pino Puglisi in 1993.

Puglisi's corpse was buried inside the cathedral where Graviano's son was due to receive the confirmation.

Graviano, together with his brother Filippo, became members of the Commissione, or the Sicilian Mafia Commission, after they substituted mafioso Giuseppe Lucchese, who was in prison. The two brothers were among the mafia bosses behind the homicide of anti-mafia judges Paolo Borsellino and Giovanni Falcone.

The Commission is made of mob bosses who preside over matters concerning members of Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia.

Romeo's decision stirred up debate with some arguing that the Church's behaviour was inconsistent, as the niece of another mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro, was allowed to get married in the Palatine Chapel in Palermo.

However, the Catholic Church said they were not aware of the link between the woman and Denaro.

According to Father Francesco Michele Stabile, who headed the commission that promoted the beatification of father Puglisi, Romeo's decision was necessary as the church had to send "a warning sign" to the Gravianos and society.

He explained that the ruling of the Curia - formed by officials who assist in the decisions concerning the Catholic Church - was not "a discriminatory act against the boy. We did not deny him the confirmation, but we won't allow the ceremony to be carried out in the place that holds the corpse of Father Pino, a symbol of resistance against mafia."