June 28, 2014

​Pope Francis Says Mafia Members are ‘Excommunicated’

 ©2014 Religion News Service

Pope Francis is calling for Italy’s organized crime groups
to give up “the adoration of evil,” telling members of the Mafia they “are excommunicated”
from the Catholic Church.

The pope ventured into the heartland of the country’s most powerful
Mafia known as ‘Ndrangheta on June 21 to issue his strongest attack on
organized crime since the late Pope John Paul II attacked the Sicilian Mafia in
1993. “Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as mobsters do, are
not in communion with God. They are excommunicated,” Francis told tens of
thousands who gathered to celebrate Mass in the town of Sibari. “We must fight
against this evil, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it.”

He said the church would exert its full force in efforts to combat
organized crime. “Our children are asking for it, our young people are asking
for it. They are in need of hope and faith can help respond to this need,” he

Francis made a one-day visit to the southern region of Calabria after
3-year-old toddler Nicola “Coco” Campolongo was killed with his grandfather and
his grandfather’s companion in a local mafia drug feud. Their charred remains
were found inside a burned-out car in January. The brutal killing shocked
Italians who are accustomed to reports of mafia violence, and prompted a
heartfelt response from Francis, who urged the killers to “repent.”

The pope called for greater solidarity in the economically depressed
region, which is dominated by the Mafia and where a 69-year-old priest, the
Rev. Lazzaro Longobardi, was also brutally murdered in March.

Francis’ determination to challenge organized crime groups has
provoked warnings that he himself could become a mafia target.

Last week, one of Italy’s top prosecutors, Nicola Gratteri, who
investigates the Mafia, said the pope had created a “revolution” in the church
and was at risk of mafia retribution because of his desire to get rid of
cronyism and corruption. “There is a power struggle underway at the Vatican
that has nothing to do with the poor, with faith, with religion,” he said. “It
is a real power game, about real power.”