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Pope Francis made history by excommunicating members of the Italian Mafia from the Catholic Church during an outdoor mass on Saturday, June 21st in the organized-crime ridden region of Calabria in Southern Italy.
CNN reports that the Pope’s warning to a crowd of over 100,000 people will not go unnoticed in a town where a 3-year-old boy and his grandfather were victims of a Mafia hit earlier this year.
The locale is known as an area subject to a high level of organized crime, specifically by the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia.' The group specializes in the lucrative global cocaine trade, as well as takes advantage of the 56% youth unemployment rate to propagate membership.
The Pope refers to the organization as a case of “the adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.” According to NBC News, this is a statement also geared towards church officials, who either turn a blind eye to mafia related activity, or even manipulate their positions of power to participate themselves. Similarly, crime families are known to portray themselves as virtuous Catholics.
Despite the fact that making such a proclamation could put the Pope at risk, he expresses his lack of concern to a Spanish Newspaper called La Vanguardia, saying, “It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose.” Scared or not, it was certainly a bold statement that will reverberate throughout the Catholic community.