Deviating from prepared remarks at a mass in southern Italy, Pope Francis threw the ultimate brushback pitch at the Calabrese Mafia today, telling the organized crime syndicate they are excommunicated.
Speaking to a mass of tens of thousands of people in Sibari, located at the arch of the boot, the pontiff labeled the powerful syndicate an example of "the adoration of evil" and a force to be fought against.
Those who in their lives follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated."
“Please change your lives. You have had a father & a mother. Think of them. Cry a little & convert.” Pope Francis to the Mafiosi. And us.— Michael Sadgrove (@Sadgrovem) March 22, 2014
Pope Francis isn't the first Holy See to mix things up with the mob. Back in 1993, Pope John Paul II spoke out against the mafia following a series of murders in southern Italy. During a visit to Sicily, he said:
I say to those responsible: Convert! One day, the judgment of God will arrive!”
Though Francis is an Argentine and John Paul II was Polish, one of the official titles attached to the role of Holy Father (after Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, and Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church) is Primate of Italy, a ceremonial title of honor.
John Paul II's pronouncements were not without their consequences. Following his denunciation of the Sicilian Mafia, several attacks were carried out against church targets in the ensuing months, including the bombing of two churches and the Uffizi.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.