You may steal paradise if my brother Tony Sirico, often known as “Paulie Walnuts,” did it.

NEW Fox News articles can now be heard on audio! Read this article. 0:00 / 4:57 BeyondWords Author’s note The following is an abridged version of the homily delivered at the Requiem Mass for Tony Sirico, who portrayed “Paulie Walnuts” on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” on July 13, 2022, at Brooklyn’s Basilica of Regina Pacis. It is based on Saint Luke’s narrative of Jesus’s crucifixion (23:39–43).

I won’t go over the specifics of my brother’s life or the significant shift in its course from when he was a child that led to the success he attained as he grew older.

Furthermore, praising the deceased in a funeral speech is not the priest’s job. It is my responsibility to convey to you the love of God, which comes to us in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the face of death, and I take that responsibility as seriously as Tony took his acting. In the Christian lexicon, life is eternal life, into which my brother has now entered. Death is not the final word.

Neither is it my place to elevate my brother. I would have to direct you to a higher authority for that.

What I can do is bring to your attention certain aspects of this man’s complicated life that you might not be aware of and perhaps draw some connections that might otherwise go unnoticed.


Rev. Robert Sirico and Tony Sirico at dinner circa 2015

The most noticeable aspect of my brother was his rugged, crusty look. I’ve compared him to a fine loaf of Italian bread.

That extreme bravado was present for a variety of reasons, but suffice it to say that it was there to provide protection.

As many performers in the industry are aware, people frequently mistake the actor for the performance. However, once you peered past Tony’s “defensive armor,” as his friend and coworker Michael Imperioli described it at the wake, you started to notice a softer, gentler interior.

Many people may be astonished to learn that my brother had a moral core given some of the mistakes he made, particularly early in his life, and undoubtedly in the roles he came to play in his professional career. Let me use a tale to demonstrate this.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 09: Michael Imperioli and Tony Sirico attend the "The Sopranos" 20th Anniversary Panel Discussion at SVA Theater on January 09, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

I celebrated my first Mass as a priest in this church in 1989 because my parents had been married here, and my father had his funeral Mass here. My mother would be buried from this church, as well.

As you may know, the first Mass of a priestespecially an Italian-American priestis celebrated like a marriage with friends and family invited to the Mass, and to a festive gathering following.

At that reception, I was speaking to Tony when a relative crossed the dance floor to speak to him. “Junior”as the family called him”today was your brothers first Mass,” she said with a tone of an accusation.

“Yeah. What about it?”

“You didnt receive Communion.”

“Aunt Irene, I didnt go to confession.”

I turned to him and said: “Junior, youre the last bad Catholic in America. Everyone else thinks theyre entitled.”

At that moment, I saw my brothers recognition of his incompleteness and the necessity for preparation and confession before encountering a Holy God. This was my brothers redemption.

Tony Sirico during The Sopranos Cast Press Conference and Photocall at Atlantic City Hilton - March 25, 2006 at Atlantic City Hilton in Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Tom Briglia/FilmMagic)

I am aware that many people nowadays believe that confessing sin, guilt, or humiliation for wrongdoing somehow lessens human dignity. Instead, I believe that it strengthens our integrity and establishes a solid foundation for our dignity.

Our Lord was crucified between two criminals, according to the gospel account of his death on the cross. When “counted among the wicked,” Jesus was. Jesus frequently hung out with sinners.

The location, Golgotha, was a defunct quarry. And in a way, the two criminals standing on either side of Jesus symbolize all of us—the entirety of humanity—in our ability to either own our faults and lash out at those who point them out, or to ask for forgiveness.

On that mountaintop, surrounded by mockery, Christ’s final words included the phrase “Father, forgive them.”
He wasn’t giving away his forgiveness lightly. After all, it cost the life of our Lord.

Tony Sirico known as Paul 'Paulie Walnuts' Gualtieri in 'The Sopranos' died on July 8 at the age of 79.

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