The Pope excommunicated the Mafia yesterday, blasting a group that is thought to be the most powerful organised crime organisation in the world. It is the most severe condemnation of the Mafia by a pope for two decades, after criticism over 20 years ago triggered revenge attacks in Italy.
The Mafia is an example of the “adoration of evil and contempt of the common good,” he said.
In unplanned remarks about the ‘Ndragheta crime group to thousands of people at Mass in southern Italy, Pope Francis said: “Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated.”
The pope said that the church would use its full force to combat organised crime. “Our children are asking for it, our young people are asking for it,” he said.The comments came after the pope met the family of a three-year-old child murdered earlier this year. Authorities believe that the ‘Ndrangheta are behind the killing, in which two other people died.
They concluded a visit to Calabria, 'Ndragheta's heartland and the site of the murder.
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
In pictures: 'The many popes of Pope Francis'
1/12 The Pro-Gay Pope
In just a year, Pope Francis has managed to change the public perception of the Catholic Church, and the stance it takes on civil issues, like gay rights. Despite originally protesting the legalisation of gay marriage in his native Argentina some years ago, he told reporters this year: “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”
2/12 The Rebel Pope
No other Pope has urged a shake-up of the Catholic Church quite like Pope Francis, a true rebel of the dioceses. Who, incidentally, used to be a night club bouncer.
3/12 The Graffiti Pope
Pope Francis become... SUPER POPE in this Vatican-approved street art. But was he happy with the reference to the fictional DC comic character?"To depict the pope as a sort of superman, a sort of star, seems offensive to me. The pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps tranquilly and has friends like everyone else, a normal person," he said. So, that's a no, then.
4/12 The Biker Pope
Yes, the Pope used to own a Harley Davidson. And yes, he auctioned it off this year and donated the proceeds to a charity that feeds the hungry in Rome. Very Papal.
5/12 The ‘Blue’ Pope
Dropping the 'F' bomb during Sunday service? Classic Pope Francis. Sadly, down to a Spanish-speaking slip of the Italian language rather than pure bad-assery.
6/12 The ‘Because I’m Worth It’ Pope
That awkward moment when your Papal hat blows off, forcing your barnet into Sesame Street-like spikes. Pope Francis has been there.
7/12 The Chocolate Pope
Imagine the Pope's delight (horror?) when he was presented with a giant chocolate replica of himself outside the Vatican by by students on a chocolatier course at the Accademia of Maestri Cioccolatieri, near Venice.
8/12 The Rock Star pope
The one and only religious leader ever to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine? Introducing... Pope Francis.
9/12 The People’s Pope
His U-turn attitude towards sexuality won him Time magazine's coveted Person of the Year accolade, and the cover of gay rights magazine The Advocate.
10/12 The Merchandise Pope
Thongs, mugs, onesies, earrings and even a baby mobile adorned with decapitated Pope heads, the 'Francis Effect' has seen sales of Papal merchandise soar by 200% over the last year.
11/12 The Fashion Pope
The only Pope, as far as we're aware, to be compared to fashion royalty (Karl Lagerfeld. Yes way.) and win Esquire's Most Stylish Man of 2013 award, too.
12/12 The Modern Pope
Let it be said, Pope Francis knows a thing or two about social media. He might be a way off 'doing a Dalai' and opting for Instagram, but he's not above posing for the odd 'Selfie' on Twitter.
A spokesman said that the words did not constitute the kind of formal decree that is required for official excommunication. But the statement is still expected to have a deep affect on members of the Mafia, because many see themselves as religious and attend ceremonies.
The comments — the first time that a pope has used the word excommunicated in relation to th e organised crime group — are thought to be the church’s strongest attack on the Mafia since 1993. Then, Pope John Paul blasted the Sicilian Mafia when he visited the area after a run of murders, and urged Roman Catholics in Sicily to rise up against them.
A number of churches were bombed after Pope John Paul's comments, in part because the church had broken an unwritten hands-off rule towards organised crime, experts said at the time.
The target of Pope Francis’ attack, the ‘Ndrangheta, is based in Calabria, the heel of Italy and is estimated to make up at least 3% of the country’s GDP. But it has spread across the world and has revenues of around £44 billion from drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering.