Pope Francis warned gangsters that they will go to hell unless they repent and stop doing evil as he is launching a stinging attack on the mafia.
“Blood-stained money, blood-stained power, you can’t bring it with you to your next life. Repent,” the pontiff said.
Pope Francis was speaking at a prayer vigil for relatives of those killed by the mafia.
The Pope has spoken out frequently about the evils of corruption and wrote a booklet on the subject in 2005 when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The meeting near Rome on Friday – organized by a citizens’ group called Libera – was aimed at demonstrating the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to organized crime, rejecting historic ties with mafia bosses claiming to be good Catholics.
Pope Francis was speaking at a prayer vigil for relatives of those killed by the mafia
The vigil was filled with those who have suffered at the hands of the mafia, including people whose family members and loved ones had been killed.
As the names of those murdered were read out, the Pope listened, deep in somber thought.
After expressing solidarity with the 842 people at the vigil, he said that he could not leave the service without addressing those not present: The “protagonists” of mafia violence.
“This life that you live now won’t give you pleasure. It won’t give you joy or happiness,” he said.
“There’s still time to not end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path.”
There is a long list of brave priests in Italy who have stood up to the mafia, and some have paid with lives.
Anti-mafia activists hope that Pope Francis’ words are a signal that he is on their side.
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Tens of thousands of Italians have protested in Naples against illegal dumping of toxic waste blamed on the local mafia.
Demonstrators carried photos of relatives who they said had died of cancer as a result of the pollution.
Locals call the area between Naples and Caserta the “Triangle of Death” because of toxic fumes after waste burning.
Some 10 million tonnes of industrial waste has reportedly been dumped in the region over the past 20 years.
Tens of thousands of Italians have protested in Naples against illegal dumping of toxic waste blamed on the local mafia
Environmental group Legambiente, which organized Saturday’s protest, said nearly 440 businesses in central and northern Italy had been taking part in the illegal activity.
“It is essential that in addition to waste we find also the truth about who is responsible,” Legambiente’s director Rossella Muroni was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
The demonstrators also demanded an immediate clean-up of the contaminated land.
As more and more illegal dumps are found, the Italian government says it is starting an extensive project of cleaning the contaminated area.
The local mafia, the Camorra, is suspected of securing lucrative contracts to dispose of waste and then dumping much of it illegally.
Two decades ago doctors noticed that incidences of cancer in towns around Naples were on the rise.
Since then, the number of tumors found in women has risen by 40%, and those in men by 47%.
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The entire council of the city of Reggio Calabria in southern Italy has been sacked to stop it from being taken over by the mafia, officials say.
The move came after some councilors were suspected of having ties to the powerful ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.
Officials said it was the first time that the entire government of a provincial capital had been dismissed over suspected mafia links.
Three commissioners will run the city for 18 months until elections.
Mayor Demetrio Arena and all 30 city councilors were sacked to prevent any “mafia contagion” in the local government, Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri said.
Smaller city administrations have been dissolved in the past for similar reasons.
Calabria is the home of the ‘Ndrangheta, which experts say has become one of the world’s biggest criminal organizations.
Cocaine is thought to be its biggest source of revenue, along with extortion and money laundering.
Italy’s parliamentary anti-mafia commission has described the ‘Ndrangheta as the country’s most dangerous – and richest – mafia.
The network has used the migration of poor Calabrians to northern Italy or abroad to export its influence.