Pope Francis’s anti-mafia stance stokes tensions, Italian prosecutor says
Pope Francis’s anti-mafia rhetoric and financial reforms at the Vatican are stoking tension between the mob and the Church, an Italian prosecutor said in an interview with Reuters.
Nicola Gratteri, the leading Calabrian mob prosecutor, dismissed headlines that said the mafia wanted to kill the pontiff following another interview the senior investigator gave to an Italian newspaper on Wednesday.
Instead, Gratteri said he was simply pointing out that the pope’s efforts to break historic ties that the ‘Ndrangheta, as the Calabrian mafia is known, has maintained with the Roman Catholic Church is angering mob bosses.
“Since the mafias need popular consensus to control their territory, they need to be seen as close to the Church,” Gratteri told Reuters on Wednesday night.
“Pope Francis is saying clearly that there can be no compromises with mafias that extort and murder.”
Mob bosses establish close ties to local priests as a way to show that their authority is recognized, he said, and their most important annual meeting takes place at the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Polsi in the rugged mountains that form the toe of the Italian boot.
Religious symbolism also looms large in the ‘Ndrangheta. During the initiation rite that members call the baptism, an affiliate holds the burning image of St. Michael the Archangel while pledging his life to the organization, Gratteri said.
– by Steve Scherer in Rome