The Pope vs. the Mafia, Round 1

Pope FrancisIt didn’t take long for the Catholic Church’s newest pope to draw a line in the sand. Pope Francis is finding himself to take issue up with one of the most infamous criminal organizations the world has ever seen.

In a weekly blessing in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, the pope squared off against the Sicilian Mafia. His issue came during the beautification of Don Giuseppe Puglisi, a Roman Catholic priest murdered by the mafia in Sicily in 1993.

Pope Francis called on the masses to pray to the Lord to help make Mafiosi convert to God, while urging mobsters repent.

“I think the great pain suffered by men, women and even children, exploited by so many mafias, who make them slaves through prostitution, through many social pressures,” said Pope Francis. “They cannot do this, they cannot make our brothers slaves.”

Sunday, Pope Francis was honoring the memory of Father Puglisi, while telling the crowd that the priest was killed 20 years ago when he was trying help keep youths keep away from joining the mob, drug dealing  and other illegal activities.

Puglisi worked in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Palermo, a long time stronghold for mafia activity, and was known as an anti-mafia priest who constantly challenged the mafia. On Puglisi’s 56th birthday he was gunned down at point-blank range in right in front of his church. The hitmen would later confess saying the priest’s last words were, “I’ve been expecting you.”

The beatification of Father Puglisi is the last step to sainthood.

We’ve seen stories publicized in films and television of the dealings of the mafia. In America, the mafia was at its most powerful in the earlier half of the 20th century. The problem did not go away.

In Italy it was only worst. Smuggling, loan sharking and murder are still taking its toll on the people of Italy. Mostly its perpetrated by the mafia. Those issues from 1993 still turn up in 2013. While weakened by modern times and law, La Cosa Nostra still have a significant enough impact to warrant such condemnation from the pope.

Not for nothin’ but, its good to see Pope Francis take a stance just two months into his papacy. There are only so many ways you can confront the issue. You get to them before they get to you. So many law enforcement officers and officials have been taken out the picture by the mafia. Either by murder or being bought out. We’ll have to see how far Pope Francis will be able to get with his new target. The mafia, not being what it used to be, could see conditions strained for them. But then will we see the pontiff take on other, more powerful, organized crime syndicates?

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