Pope Francis has taken a stand against organised crime, calling on the mafia to “stop doing evil”.
Pope Francis has called on the mafia to “stop doing evil” as he met relatives of their victims to demonstrate the Catholic Church’s opposition to organised crime.
Over a thousand people attended prayers with the pope at a church near the Vatican, where a list of 842 names of victims of mafia violence were read out – including butchered toddlers and renowned anti-mafia Judge Giovanni Falcone, blown up in his car in 1992.
The meeting was an attempt to draw a line under the Church’s historic ties with dons claiming to be God-fearing Catholics.
“Men and women of the mafia… change your way of life. Stop doing evil, convert,” the pontiff said.
“There is still time to avoid ending up in hell, which is where you are going if you continue down this path,” Francis warned the country’s mafiosi.
He told Italy’s mobsters to relinquish their “blood-stained money” which “cannot be taken into paradise.”
Francis “wants to make it known that the gospel and the mafia, the gospel and corruption, the gospel and illegality, cannot go hand in hand,” father Marcello Cozzi, deputy president of the anti-mafia Libera association, told AFP ahead of the ceremony.
Numerous priests fight against the Cosa Nostra in Sicily, the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria and the Camorra in Naples – sometimes paying for their bravery with their lives – but the Italian Church also has a darker side.
Mafia dons have historically attended mass, often receiving lavish funerals and presenting themselves as good Catholic benefactors, stepping in to serve local residents where the state has failed to help. They also claim to live by a “code of honour”.
Cozzi said the murder of a three-year-old this week in mafia retaliation was the latest proof that such a code did not exist, and has never done so.
“In the list of victims’ names there are at least 80 minors. A mafia which does not kill children does not exist, they have always killed children,” he said.