ROME (RNS) Catholic bishops from the southern Italian region of Calabria have broken their silence and spoken out against the “inhumane” power of the Mafia that dominates their poverty-stricken area.

Pope Francis shakes hands with Father Luigi Ciotti, founder of the Italian anti-Mafia group Libera, at Rome's Church of St. Gregory VII on March 21, 2014.  Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

Pope Francis shakes hands with the Rev. Luigi Ciotti, founder of the Italian anti-Mafia group Libera, at Rome’s Church of St. Gregory VII on March 21, 2014. Photo by Paul Haring, courtesy of Catholic News Service

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The 12 prelates from the Bishops’ Conference of Calabria endorsed a document condemning the local Mafia, or ‘Ndrangheta, on Friday (Jan. 2), just two days after Pope Francis took a strong stand on Mafia corruption in Rome in a forceful New Year’s Eve message.

Monsignor Salvatore Nunnari, president of the Calabrian bishops, said the conference believed the Mafia was “something inhumane,” and church leaders wanted to spotlight the “painful evil” it caused.

“It is clear that this announcement will be like a sharpened sword that will injure those in a situation opposed to the gospel,” the Calabrian bishops said in the document.

“It is here that the debate on the ‘Ndrangheta begins. Those who are part of it not only betray the gospel but it is as if they were trampling all over it every day.”

The bishops expressed concern about the impact of high unemployment and the spread of political corruption in a region where ‘Ndrangheta has mushroomed into one of the most powerful organized crime groups in the world through drugs and arms trafficking, extortion and other operations.

The bishops said the nature of organized crime had now reached a “globalized” dimension and was finding allies on the fringes of politics through corrupt and deviant allies in positions of power.

“The church salutes only the wounded man and shouts out his pain and indignation,” said the bishops, who referred to the spread of bribes and political favors.

On Wednesday, the pope called for a “conversion” from a corruption scandal linking Rome’s politicians, a former right-wing terrorist and other criminal elements.

In March, the Argentine pontiff met the victims of Mafia violence and later called for the excommunication of the Mafia from the church when he visited Calabria in June.

In the past, Italy’s organized crime groups have had a cozy relationship with the Catholic hierarchy. Inside ’Ndrangheta, the initiation ceremony is known as a ‘‘baptism,” and for many members mob ties are no less sacred than their affiliation with the church. Newcomers must swear allegiance to St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of ‘Ndrangheta.




  1. Laurence Charles Ringo

    Wow! I am blown away by the concept of a criminal organization having a patron saint! Can anyone help me understand that? What the what, catholics?? It’s claimed in this piece that these criminals have had a…”cozy relationship with the heirarchy”…It just now dawned on me that throughout the long history of organized crime throughout Europe AND the United States, most of the members of these organizations have in fact been catholics, especially the Italian and Irish mobs.I’m speechless with astonishment! What does that say about, among other things, the concept of so-called”baptismal regeneration”? What about the Mass, which presumably conveys new life, holiness of life, a sanctified, Christlike life? What is wrong with this picture, what is the source of such a huge disconnect?? I await a credible explanation from…well, ANYBODY who can explain this from the Roman Catholic perspective.

  2. Superstition, poverty and fear are all made worse by religion.

    Catholicism has never worked to stop the Mafia EVER because its superstitious nonsense feeds the problems – injustice, classism, poverty – which breed crime.

    Catholic superstitions prevent women’s rights and gay rights. Combined, that is 60% of the population. that leaves the power in the hands patriarchical men with connections. The Mafia is a part of that.

    Religion poisons society and stunts it options. Well meaning priests are clueless – a rise of secularism is the long term solution to crime. Women’s emancipation alone would repair a lot of this. Not because men are evil, but because the church preaches the superstitions which grant men too much of the power.

    Diminish religion and things get better.
    It works almost everytime.

  3. It is a matter of justice to confront those who practice violence, fraud, corruption and the news that Pope Francis is “going after” the Mafia is a long-awaited development.

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