Priest: Cianci’s ‘good works cover a multitude of sins’

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – When Father Giacomo Capoverdi was a 15-year-old freshman at LaSalle Academy in 1980, he left a note at the campaign office of Providence Mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. explaining he that he wanted to volunteer for the then-Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Even though he was from an Elmhurst family that adored Cianci’s opponent in that race, Democratic Gov. Joseph Garrahy, Capoverdi liked Buddy because he was an Italian-American and “blood is thicker than politics.” The two instantly hit it off and even though Cianci was trounced in that election, a lifelong friendship was forged. Capoverdi would go on to work at City Hall under former Mayor Joseph Paolino, and later, Cianci, before entering the seminary.

And this being Rhode Island, it was Capoverdi who delivered the homily Saturday morning as Cianci lay in state outside the City Hall office he held for more than 21 years between 1975 and 2002. He’ll do the same on Sunday and offer a graveside prayer when Cianci is buried at St. Ann’s Cemetery in Cranston on Monday.

Explaining that “good works cover a multitude of sins,” Capoverdi, who has been the pastor at the Immaculate Conception Church in Westerly for four years, praised Cianci for breathing life into a dying city during his two tenures as mayor.

“Looking at Buddy and what he did for this city, I want to do the things for my church that he did for Providence,” Capoverdi told reporters Saturday.

And then the doors to City Hall opened, and dozens of well-wishers lined up to say goodbye to the former mayor. Viewing hours were scheduled from noon to 6 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, a horse-drawn carriage will carry Cianci’s casket from City Hall to the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, where a funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m.

“I had to come say goodbye to Buddy,” Joseph Buchanan, a longtime city political activist, told former Mayor Joe Paolino before walking up the City Hall steps the see Cianci on the second floor.

Walter Miller, a fixture in City Hall for more than 30 years, was among the first in line.

“Cianci and Paolino are numbers one and two,” Miller said, referring to his favorite Providence mayors. “And [Jorge] Elorza isn’t so bad. I like him.”

Cianci, 74, died Jan. 28, the morning after he was rushed to the hospital after experiencing stomach pains while he taped his weekly TV show. He left behind three grandchildren and his fiancée, Tara Marie Haywood.

Cianci, who served as mayor from 1975 to 1984 and again from 1991 to 2002, is credited with presiding over Providence’s resurgence in the 1990s but twice resigned the mayor’s office in disgrace following felony convictions. He tried to win back City Hall for a third time in 2014, but was defeated by Elorza.

Capoverdi, who worked under Cianci in City Hall for about six months in 1991, recalled having a particular value to the former mayor: he could do a spot-on Al Pacino impression.

When Cianci had bigwigs into his office, he’d call in Capoverdi to deliver a memorable line from Godfather Part III in which Pacino, playing Michael Corleone, explained, “I don’t need tough guys; I need more lawyers.”

“He liked that one because he was a lawyer,” Capoverdi joked.

Continue the discussion on FacebookDan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

LIVE COVERAGE: Eyewitness News will bring you live coverage of Cianci’s Funeral Mass and procession Monday starting at 8 a.m. on WPRI 12 and WPRI.com

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