Pope Francis

ITALY — Pope Francis issued a scathing attack on organized crime groups by a pontiff, accusing them of practicing “the adoration of evil” and declaring all mafia members “excommunicated” from the Catholic Church, Sunday.

“Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated,” he said during a Mass before thousands of people in Calabria, the southern Italian base of the Ndrangheta crime syndicate and one of Italy’s most crime-infested areas, according to Washington Post.

It was the first time a pope had used the word excommunication — a total cutoff from the Catholic Church — in direct reference to members of organized crime. People who are excommunicated are expelled from the church, unless they repent, and are considered to be condemned to Hell in the afterlife.

“This evil must be fought against, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it,” the pope said, denouncing it for its “adoration of evil and contempt of the common good.”

According to USA Today, people who are connected with the mafia are highly religious. They often fund some of Roman Catholic’s programs and seek the blessings of local priests. In April, bishops in Calabria issued a statement calling the mafia a “cancer.”

Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini said the pope’s stern words did not constitute a formal decree of canon law regarding excommunication. Rather, it was more of a direct message to members of organized crime that they had effectively excommunicated themselves, reminding them that they could not participate in church sacraments or other activities because they had distanced themselves from God through their criminal actions.

Benedettini further said that the pope was trying to “isolate mafiosi within their own communities,” sending a message that they should not in any way be looked up to as “men of honor.”

“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,” Pope Francis also said via Christian Post.

The pope traveled and held a mass in the southern region of Calabria to comfort the family of a 3-year-old boy who, along with his grandfather, was gunned down in a January shootout involving the mafia.


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