Brushing off warnings, Pope to meet the Mafia
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/20/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Disregarding safety warnings in addition to concerns about his health, Pope Francis will travel to the mafia heartland of Calabria for the first time this weekend. Calabria was where a young boy was murdered in the crossfires of a criminal gang war.
Pope Francis' determination to rattle organized crime groups has sparked warnings that he himself could become a target for the mafia.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - His itinerary to in one of the poorest regions of Italy will also see the pontiff visiting a prison, hospital and care home in and around Cassano allo Ionio. He will then celebrate mass with an expected 100,000 pilgrims.
There have been concerns about the Pope's health as of late. There was the abrupt decision to cancel his popular morning Mass until September, and all general mid-week audiences in July.
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The pope in Calabria is expected to speak out about two of the region's biggest challenges: youth unemployment and the pervasive grip of the immensely powerful and secretive 'Ndrangheta crime group.
Unemployment among people under 25 years of age in the region stands at 56.1 percent, the highest in Italy. Local mobsters thrive by offering idle youngsters well-paid work, luring them into their networks.
The Argentine pope has previously denounced Italy's mafia organizations, which also include Sicily's Cosa Nostra and Stidda, Campania's Comorra and Puglia's Sacra Corona Unita, warning mobsters to relinquish their "bloodstained money . which cannot be taken to heaven."
Pope Francis met with relatives of mafia victims in May, including the families of butchered children and priests. Francis warned gangsters that they would "go to hell" if they did not repent.
When John Paul II voiced a similar threat in Sicily in 1993, Cosa Nostra responded by bombing two historic churches in Rome.
Francis' determination to rattle organized crime groups has sparked warnings that he himself could become a target for the mafia.
Respected Calabrian state prosecutor Nicola Gratteri said "Ndrangheta was nervous". If the mafia bosses can trip him up, they won't hesitate," he said.
The Vatican brushed off the warning, insisting there was "no reason for concern."
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