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Pope rebukes mafia: 'Stop wrecking people's lives and repent'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In an unprepared comment after his weekly Angelus blessing in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis spoke out against the mafia for the first time since he became pontiff two months ago. The pope denounced mafia organizations exploiting and enslaving people. He also called upon the Mafiosi to repent. The plea was very similar to the one beseeched by Pope John Paul II 20 years ago.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While the high profile killings by the Italian mafia have been in decline since the Nineties, activities such as prostitution, extortion and drug trafficking still exerts a heavy hand over the country and its economy.

According to the United Nations, Italy's main crime groups - the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta and the Camorra from around the southern city of Naples have a joint annual turnover of $150 billion, which is more than the annual sales of Italy's biggest company, oil giant Eni.

Francis evoked the memory of Sicilian anti-mafia priest Giuseppe Puglisi, who was killed by gunmen in 1993 outside his home in the island's capital of Palermo. He was beatified this past weekend.

"My thoughts are with the suffering of women, men and also children who are exploited by the many mafias who make them slaves, through prostitution, through many social pressures," he said.

"They cannot do this, they cannot make our brothers slaves, we must pray to the Lord to make these Mafiosi convert to God."

Twenty years ago in May of 1993, the then-pope John Paul angrily called on Mafiosi to "repent, because one day you will face the judgment of God." It was one of his most famous addresses in Agrigento, Sicily,

Francis made his first visit to a Rome parish when he said Mass outside a church in the northern fringe of the city, joking with local children during the service.

"You can understand reality better from the outskirts than the center," he said at the Saints Elisabeth and Zachariah, a modern church very much unlike the vast 16th century Basilica of St. Peters in the Vatican.

The pope held a light-hearted question and answer session with children about the roles of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. "Whoever gets it right will win the derby," he said, in a reference to the Italian soccer cup final to be played later between Rome's two rival teams, AS Roma and Lazio.

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