The new Pope’s mafia comments made late last week have taken organized crime to task, and Pope Francis spoke at length on the problem as he memorialized Rev. Giuseppe Puglisi, killed nearly 20 years ago in a mob-related incident.
The Pope’s mafia remarks were inspired by Rev. Puglisi, who was a priest in Palermo, Italy, where he frequently spoke out about the effects of organized crime.
Pope Francis addressed the subject Sunday during his weekly address at St. Peter’s Square, and speaking to the crows, the pontiff said:
“I think of all the pain of men, women and even children who are exploited by many Mafias… They are forced to do work that makes them slaves, like prostitution. Behind all this slavery, there are Mafias. We pray that these Mafia men and women convert to God.”
The Pope continued: “They cannot make our brothers slaves. Let us pray that these Mafiosi and Mafiose convert to God.”
Pope Francis said of Rev. Puglisi: “He took young people away from the mafia, which tried to defeat him by killing him but in reality he is the one who won in the end.”
Twenty years after his death and the day before the Pope’s mafia comments, Puglisi was beatified in a Saturday mass.
ABC explains of the process and Puglisi’s status within the church:
“Beatification is the last formal step before possible sainthood. As part of the process leading to beatification, church officials considered statements that convicted Mafiosi had given to investigators. The mobsters told authorities that Cosa Nostra bosses had ordered Puglisi’s murder because he had dared defy the Mafia by his preaching and work with young people.”
In addition to the Pope’s mafia criticisms, the pontiff called on those who traffic in organized crime to “convert” their hearts and repent.