Pope denounces Mafia, meets father of slain boy

Published on Saturday, 21 June 2014 19:32 - Written by

Pope denounces Mafia 3 In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L' Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis is welcomed by children as he arrives for his meeting with inmates and personnel of the prison of Castrovillari, southern Italy, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Pope Francis has offered words of sympathy to a slain toddler's inmate father during a visit to prison to a southern Italian region infested by one of the world's most powerful crime syndicates. Local organizers of the pope's one-day pilgrimage to Calabria said the pontiff first spoke to some 200 male and female inmates in the prison in the town of Castrovillari, then spoke separately with the father and two grandmothers of Coco' Campolongo. The 3-year-old boy was shot, along with one of his grandathers and the grandfather's companion, in a car in an attack in January blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano all'Jonio. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope denounces Mafia 5 In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L' Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis delivers his message during his meeting with inmates and personnel of the prison of Castrovillari, southern Italy, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Pope Francis has offered words of sympathy to a slain toddler's inmate father during a visit to prison to a southern Italian region infested by one of the world's most powerful crime syndicates. Local organizers of the pope's one-day pilgrimage to Calabria said the pontiff first spoke to some 200 male and female inmates in the prison in the town of Castrovillari, then spoke separately with the father and two grandmothers of Coco' Campolongo. The 3-year-old boy was shot, along with one of his grandathers and the grandfather's companion, in a car in an attack in January blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano all'Jonio. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope denounces Mafia 2 In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L' Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis delivers his message during his meeting with local priests in the Cathedral of Cassano allo Jonio, southern Italy, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Pope Francis has offered words of sympathy to a slain toddler's inmate father during a visit to prison to a southern Italian region infested by one of the world's most powerful crime syndicates. Local organizers of the pope's one-day pilgrimage to Calabria said the pontiff first spoke to some 200 male and female inmates in the prison in the town of Castrovillari, then spoke separately with the father and two grandmothers of Coco' Campolongo. The 3-year-old boy was shot, along with one of his grandathers and the grandfather's companion, in a car in an attack in January blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano allo Jonio. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope denounces Mafia 4 In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L' Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis is applauded after delivering his message during his meeting with inmates and personnel of the prison of Castrovillari, southern Italy, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Pope Francis has offered words of sympathy to a slain toddler's inmate father during a visit to prison to a southern Italian region infested by one of the world's most powerful crime syndicates. Local organizers of the pope's one-day pilgrimage to Calabria said the pontiff first spoke to some 200 male and female inmates in the prison in the town of Castrovillari, then spoke separately with the father and two grandmothers of Coco' Campolongo. The 3-year-old boy was shot, along with one of his grandathers and the grandfather's companion, in a car in an attack in January blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano all'Jonio. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
Pope denounces Mafia 6 In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper L' Osservatore Romano, Pope Francis delivers his message during his meeting with inmates and personnel of the prison of Castrovillari, southern Italy, Saturday, June 21, 2014. Pope Francis has offered words of sympathy to a slain toddler's inmate father during a visit to prison to a southern Italian region infested by one of the world's most powerful crime syndicates. Local organizers of the pope's one-day pilgrimage to Calabria said the pontiff first spoke to some 200 male and female inmates in the prison in the town of Castrovillari, then spoke separately with the father and two grandmothers of Coco' Campolongo. The 3-year-old boy was shot, along with one of his grandathers and the grandfather's companion, in a car in an attack in January blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano all'Jonio. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
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CASSANO ALL'JONIO, Italy (AP) — Pope Francis journeyed Saturday to the heart of Italy's biggest crime syndicate, met the father of a 3-year-old boy slain in the region's drug war, and declared that all mobsters are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

During his one-day pilgrimage to the southern region of Calabria, Francis comforted the imprisoned father of Nicola Campolongo in the courtyard of a prison in the town of Castrovillari.

In January the boy was shot, along with one of his grandfathers and the grandfather's girlfriend, in an attack blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano all'Jonio. The attackers torched the car with all three victims inside.

The boy's father and mother already were in jail at the time on drug trafficking charges. The pope had expressed his horror following the attack and promised to visit the town.

Francis embraced the man. He asked the pope to pray for the boy's mother, who was permitted to leave prison following her son's slaying and remains under house arrest. The pope also met two of the boy's grandmothers.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said Francis told the father: "May children never again have to suffer in this way."

"The two grandmothers were weeping like fountains," Benedettini added.

Calabria is the power base of the 'ndrangheta, a global drug trafficking syndicate that enriches itself by extorting businesses and infiltrating public works contracts in underdeveloped Calabria.

During his homily at an outdoor Mass, Francis denounced the 'ndrangheta for what he called its "adoration of evil and contempt for the common good. "

"Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated," he warned.

Francis greeted about 200 other prisoners during his visit there.

When Francis visited a hospice, a doctor there removed a bothersome wooden splinter from one of the pope's fingers at his request, organizers said.

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