Prosecutor: Pope faces threat from the mafia
Pope Francis at a ceremony in Rome, shortly his election as pontiff in March.
November 14th, 2013
02:59 PM ET

Prosecutor: Pope faces threat from the mafia

By Daniel Burke and Livia Borghese, CNN

ROME (CNN) - Pope Francis' crusade against corruption in the Catholic Church, including an overhaul of the scandal-scarred Vatican Bank, has put the new pontiff in the Italian mafia's crosshairs, according to two organized crime experts.

"The strong will of Pope Francis, aiming to disrupt the gangrene power centers, puts him at risk. He disturbs the mafia very much," Nicola Gratteri, a top anti-mafia prosecutor in Italy, told CNN on Thursday.

"I don't have precise information about a plan of the mafia against Pope Francis," Gratteri continued. "But if I did, I wouldn't say."

Gratteri, a deputy prosecutor in Reggio Calabria, a city in southern Italy, is a well-known foe of Calabria's notorious mafia, known as 'Ndrangheta.

The mob's anger with the Pope centers on the Vatican Bank, which the new pontiff has tried to reform, according to experts on the Italian underworld.

MORE ON CNN: Pope Francis won the Internet. Literally.

Vatican officials were not immediately available for comment. Earlier on Thursday, a Vatican spokesperson strongly denied any concerns about the Pope's safety.

"The Holy See is not at all worried," the Rev. Federico Lombardi told the French wire service Agence I.Media. "These are the usual inventions."

In May, the Vatican Bank, officially known as the Institute for Religious Works, issued its first-ever report on money laundering, an apparent attempt to improve its financial transparency.

The 64-page report details the Vatican's efforts to crack down on money laundering in particular, though it made no mention of mafia connections. The report found six charges of "suspicious activity" within the past year.

In June, the Pope established a five-person papal commission to investigate the activities of the Vatican Bank, which has been under pressure from international finance authorities to clean up its murky business practices.

A month later, Italian prosecutors arrested a priest who worked as a financial analyst for the Vatican, accusing him of trying to help smuggle tens of millions of euros across Europe using a private plane in July 2012. That same month, two top officials at the Vatican Bank resigned, as Italian prosecutors continued their three-year investigation into the bank.

The Catholic Church and the Italian mafia have a long and complicated history, said Antonio Nicaso, an expert on organized crime in Italy and co-author with Gratteri of a new book called "Holy Water," which explores the relationship between mobsters and the church.

Underworld gangsters often paid for local church repairs or bankrolled feast day celebrations for Catholic saints, Nicaso told CNN. In exchange, Catholic officials kept silent about their illicit deeds.

"The church never raised the issue," he said. "The church has never excommunicated a mobster."

More recently, the mafia used the Vatican Bank to smuggle money, Nicaso said, though he offered no specific evidence. The Pope's reforms threaten that arrangement and will anger organized crime, he added.

"We believe that this is an unprecedented challenge to the economic power center of the Vatican, and for that reason he may face some kind of risk," Nicaso said.

The Vatican has strongly denied any ties to the Italian mafia at the Vatican Bank or at any other church institution.

MORE ON CNN: Even atheists love this Pope

The Pope's penchant for wading into the massive crowds who attend his speeches and events poses a particular security risk, Nicaso said.

"He has to be more cautious. He can't go walk around Vatican Square anymore like he's a normal person."

Asked if the mafia would dare try to assassinate such a popular figure, Nicaso said, "There are so many ways to kill a pope. They have to be careful. But in the history of organized crime, whenever they had to remove an obstacle, they never thought about the consequences."

In addition to the Vatican reforms, Francis in his speeches has taken aim at corruption, saying on Monday, for example, that a Christian "who gives to the church with one hand but steals with the other hand from the country, from the poor, is unjust."

The Pope then paraphrased Jesus, saying that it would be better for a corrupt person "if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea."

"He is changing the church," Nicaso said. "It is not a church of power and luxury anymore, and his promise to restructure [the Vatican Bank] is like a Copernican revolution."

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Crime • Leaders • Money & Faith • Pope Francis

soundoff (606 Responses)
  1. CommonSensed

    This the new Dan Brown book?

    November 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  2. Bob

    Overall, I think that modern technology such as the internet, the increased presence of and access to cameras and monitoring capabilities (privacy concerns aside), and related things such as open discussion boards will eventually cut down on the more visible/brute force criminal activities and bullying employed historically by organized crime groups. The same technologies are also causing a closer examination and the eventual decline of god-fraud ponzi schemes such as the RCC, and Christianity itself. It's high time for that, and it is human progress.

    November 15, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • Akira

      Oh, I hope so, but it seems internet crime is on the rise...

      November 15, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • Lee

      Its time for Big Brother to cancel religion for everyone?

      And start constant surveillance? For the good of all people and to cut down on crime?

      How about we stop raising @ssholes and start killing off sociopaths? "The Good Son" anyone?

      November 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
    • Jack 2

      The internet and computers are the worst thing that has happened to mankind sinc ethe bgining

      November 15, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
  3. Agnostickids

    Doesn't it get anyone that the Mafia controls the Vatican bank? We're talking CENTURIES of money building and building…now the question begs to be asked, "who are the real powers-that-be?"

    November 15, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Pete

      On the same track, where do the Grahams, the Warrens, the Hinns, the Osteens and all their ilk shelter their millions? Perhaps the Swiss are the true masters of religion?

      November 15, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
    • Anna1953

      It sure gets ME...

      November 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
  4. Sara

    They really aren't leaving any options out in the PR campaign. Well played.

    November 15, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Science Works

      And there was suppose to be a list of priests names released but ...

      Minnesota Se-x Abuse Scandal Entangles University of St. Thomas ...


      Oct 23, 2013 – The University of St. Thomas in Minnesota has found itself in the middle of the ongoing se-x abuse crisis in Minnesota, according to Inside ...

      They should not keep secrets !

      November 15, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  5. Reality

    silly, the mafia could care less. This is just another PR to pretend. Meanwhile children victims continue to suffer. The pope ignores that!

    November 15, 2013 at 6:43 am |
    • Henryo


      November 15, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  6. saggyroy

    I wonder how much money over the years the church knowingly accepted from the mafia. And now this pope wants to end the deal, but everyone knows you just don't walk away from deals with the mob.

    November 15, 2013 at 5:56 am |
    • Reality

      yet lets the children who suffered at the church, continue to suffer. The catholic church lobbies to stop Bills that would expose the truth and help victims. All children victims now lose, no matter who abused/

      November 15, 2013 at 6:41 am |
    • Charm Quark

      Even though Francesco was not directly involved he would understand it is nothing personal, it is only business.

      November 15, 2013 at 7:15 am |

    Of course this is bound to happen. Nothing done in this world as far as governing, doing business is just with the frame of the law. It is constantly done under illegal procedures, profiting, blackmailing, threatening, bribing, etc. etc. you name it.
    I said it long time ago, Pope Francis is to much of a good man to the Pope to try to reform the corrupted Catholic church. God help him. Do you actually think that the other Pope quit just because he was too old?

    November 15, 2013 at 5:51 am |
  8. prophet

    praying is important.

    November 15, 2013 at 5:10 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Only to those who are too lazy to actually use their hands and do work.

      November 15, 2013 at 5:51 am |
      • Martin Believer

        The hands that help are holier than the lips that pray.
        Sai Baba

        November 15, 2013 at 6:07 am |
      • Cijay Chijioke

        Atheism is another word for being delusional and living in abject self denial. Those who deny the existence of a Creator-God may as well believe that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is a random collection of sounds

        November 15, 2013 at 7:50 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that


          November 15, 2013 at 7:50 am |
        • sam stone

          why add "god" to creator?

          could it not just be a creator?

          "god" infers judgement and heaven and hell, an overseer

          November 15, 2013 at 8:07 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Sorry, that's funny.
          Atheism only defines a disbelief in a god or gods. You're also an Atheist by denying all other gods but your own.
          Technically speaking Beethoven's 5th is a random collection of sounds, at least when it was originally written.
          I happen to care that my beliefs are true and based on evidence. My opinions are likely to change as evidence is presented.
          Your opinions are based off of a 2000 year old that has been debunked and proven fallacious time and time again. Your opinions are not likely to change no matter how much evidence you are presented with...the fact is you have your security blanket and as long as that keeps you together, no amount of evidence will change your opinion. What a horribly sad life.
          People don't need imaginary friends (god) to be good and if you feel you do (that you couldn't live without it or you'd go on a murderous rampage-raping; pillaging; beating women and children; killing LGBT etc), then it would appear that you are a much better fit for the description of a delusional person.

          November 15, 2013 at 8:11 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          People have a facility for seeing patterns and purpose even when none exists. I think your statement, Cijay, comes from something like Paley's Watch – Beethoven's Fifth in this case. The Universe is marvelously complex, but complexity can arise from systems without design or intervention.

          November 15, 2013 at 8:20 am |
        • tallulah13

          There is no irrefutable evidence to support the existence of any god(s). If you have any, you should present it. Insulting people people because they don't share your blind faith just makes you look silly.

          November 15, 2013 at 9:53 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that


          No evidence period. They don't even offer evidence to refute.

          November 15, 2013 at 9:55 am |
        • tallulah13

          Some have been brave enough to offer evidence, but it's been emotional anecdotes, delusional claims or junk science - all easily refutable.

          November 15, 2013 at 10:06 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I'd call that stuff conjecture and hokum, not evidence (although I guess we're arguing semantics now).

          November 15, 2013 at 10:47 am |
        • tallulah13

          If someone says they have proof, I am willing to explore what they put forth in that light. And yes it is conjecture and hokum, but they consider it proof. Semantics, as you said.

          November 15, 2013 at 11:00 am |
        • Cijay Chijioke

          No sam stone, it dosent. That's the false perception of a darkened mind.

          November 15, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
        • Cijay Chijioke

          @ truthprevails, the drivel you spewed out is just illogical rant. Tom tom, you are unbelievable. A self-perpetuting harmony in the universe is a random occurence? The mathematically exact physical laws that sustain it came about by chance? Where do you come from? And I thought Neanderthals were extinct.

          November 15, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
      • Pete

        Or those so afraid of the Bronze Age supersti tion that they would try to appease it, right? Prayer is either about greedily asking for something from God directly, or toadying to God either out of fear of him, or to charm such favours out of him.

        If we Americans wanted to be treated like this we would have kept the King of England instead of fighting for our freedom.

        November 15, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      Praying is talking to yourself and generally useless.

      November 15, 2013 at 5:54 am |
      • Martin Believer

        Only if you so believe!

        November 15, 2013 at 6:03 am |
        • Pete

          Prayer is only useful if you believe it is, you mean?

          November 15, 2013 at 10:07 am |
      • Mediator

        Come on, did you really have to say that? This is a religious article, and posting anti religious comments isn't just rude but disrespectful to the people who DO pray and worship god. This is not the place to go on an atheist crusade, go to an article that discusses atheism, where this sort of comment may be appropriate. I don't mind atheists, you can believe anything you want, but the moment that atheists start fighting against religion, then it's not right.

        November 15, 2013 at 6:14 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          This article is about illegal business. You should be criticizing 'prophet' for making completely irrelevant posts, not truthprevails for his factual rebuttals.

          November 15, 2013 at 6:19 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          AtheistSteve, not truthprevails.

          November 15, 2013 at 6:19 am |
        • truthprevails1

          Sometimes the truth hurts. This is a belief blog and as the late Carl Sagan stated "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." When religious people stop trying to force their beliefs in to the lives of other people, non-believers will have reason to stop posting rebuttals.
          We find it rude (and horribly disrespectful) when christians tell LGBT they are living 'sinful' lives or when they attempt to tell women what they can and can't do with their bodies. Get the picture here?? That respect you demand is a two way street.

          November 15, 2013 at 6:27 am |
        • AtheistSteve

          I don't mind theists and you are free to believe whatever you want.
          prophet chose to come to this open forum tp proselytize and pronounce unfounded claims that are rude and disrespectful toward any who don't share his belief. Prayer has been demonstrated though numerous studies to be ineffectual so I merely pointed out how he is wrong. Since when is challenging bad ideas inappropriate?

          November 15, 2013 at 6:38 am |
        • Sara

          "Praying is for idiots" would be rude. "Praying is generally useless" is simply a statement of scientifc opinion and you might be better off asking yourself why hearing such a statement bothers you so much.

          November 15, 2013 at 7:30 am |
        • tallulah13

          This blog is open to all those who wish to discuss belief. In this country, our freedom of speech and freedom to worship (or not worship) as we choose are protected equally.

          You can believe as you choose, but your beliefs are not above criticism. If you wish to silence non-believers, you can start by proving that your god (or any god) actually exists. Then you need to show why your particular religion is the one that correctly represents hat god. No one has ever done either. This is why humans have worshiped thousands of gods, and why christianity alone has over 30,000 sects.

          November 15, 2013 at 10:04 am |
        • Pete

          This is a discussion blog; where else would one honestly discuss the value of such things?

          November 15, 2013 at 10:09 am |
      • Cijay Chijioke

        Frankly Steve, you wouldn't know how true your statement is on the one hand. What you don't realize is that talking to your Self in a focused and concentrated manner is the same as talking to God – the Creative Power and Intelligence behind all observed phenomena

        November 15, 2013 at 7:41 am |
        • truthprevails1

          No he would...he's a recovering Catholic. There is zero evidence that there is a difference between speaking to yourself and speaking to god...how does one tell the difference???

          November 15, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • CommonSensed

      Actions are more important.

      November 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  9. prophet

    God is with you all

    November 15, 2013 at 5:08 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Which god?? How do you know you even have the right one???

      November 15, 2013 at 5:52 am |
      • Cijay Chijioke

        If the truth must prevail, then know there's only one God. Other gods are mere doctrinal hues, a sort of religious mascara.

        November 15, 2013 at 7:31 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Which god is the one god?

          November 15, 2013 at 7:34 am |
        • Cijay Chijioke

          The one God we have come to know as YAHWEH

          November 15, 2013 at 7:44 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Your proof of this assertion?

          November 15, 2013 at 7:46 am |
        • Cijay Chijioke

          @ ... Dave: You are the living proof, if ever you needed to have one.

          November 15, 2013 at 7:53 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          So no proof. I'm glad that's settled.

          November 15, 2013 at 7:58 am |
        • truthprevails1

          No, that is merely your opinion, there is no evidence to support that. How are you so certain that your god is the right one? What evidence do you have to support your claim?? Why should I believe your claim over the claim of someone who believes in another god??

          November 15, 2013 at 8:03 am |
        • sam stone

          cijay: and you feel yahweh is the correct one because......?

          November 15, 2013 at 8:10 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          I suppose if Cijay knows that one true God, then he knows its name. But if he knows it, he should be able to describe how he knows it. Did he come to know it in such a way that if God did not exist, then he would not even believe in it?

          November 15, 2013 at 8:12 am |
        • Pete

          Cijay Chijioke
          "The one God we have come to know as YAHWEH"

          So, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also part of the "mascara" then?

          November 15, 2013 at 10:06 am |
        • Cijay Chijioke

          Sorry folks that I switched off. Had to handle some critical issues.
          @... Dave, your cynicm is proof of ignorance of scientific facts. What do I mean? The human body is a marvel of creation – FACT. This naturally implies a creator. That you are able to think and articulate your torrid atheism is proof of a spiritul existence that random evolution can't account for. Who created all these? YAHWEH

          November 15, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Only in your imagination.

      November 15, 2013 at 5:52 am |
  10. prophet

    we are praying for those that are misled. God is with you all.

    November 15, 2013 at 5:08 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      God is imaginary.

      November 15, 2013 at 5:51 am |
      • L

        That's your opinion and belief not a fact.

        November 15, 2013 at 8:50 am |
        • Tom, Tom, the Other One

          God is at least imaginary. Have you been able to show it is something more?

          November 15, 2013 at 8:52 am |
        • sam stone

          as is the idea that god is not imaginary

          November 15, 2013 at 9:08 am |

      Prophet! Get a life!

      November 15, 2013 at 5:52 am |
    • truthprevails1

      Not misled. We happen to care that what we believe is based on evidence and so far there is not a shred of evidence to support biblical claims or your imaginary friends existence.
      As previously stated, an education is a wonderful thing, read this and read your bible in full (it is the greatest path to disbelief ever): http://freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Top_ten_arguments_for_the_existence_of_God

      November 15, 2013 at 5:55 am |
      • Cijay Chijioke

        Actually, there's very scant if at all any evidence to support atheistic dogma and illusory claims. The evidence for God if he ever needed to prove Himself abounds in his creative works as well as His Word – The Holy Bible.

        November 15, 2013 at 8:32 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Using he book to prove the book is fallacious.

          November 15, 2013 at 8:33 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          The book.

          November 15, 2013 at 8:34 am |
        • truthprevails1

          The Holy Bible is not evidence. It is circular reasoning-God exists because the bible says he exists. The works (I take it you mean our universe) is not evidence of a god. Yous still have not proven that god exists, you are merely using the god of the gaps here-I don't know, therefore god. So now without using your bible, how do you know?
          What dogma exactly is it that you believe Atheists go by? We don't have a book to guide us, so please provide the evidence for your claim.
          Have you ever considered why the creation story can't be taught in schools?

          November 15, 2013 at 9:45 am |
        • Pete

          And "Dracula" is evidence of vampires, I suppose?

          November 15, 2013 at 9:49 am |
    • Pete

      And we have hope that one day everyone will see reason.

      November 15, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  11. prophet

    of course the people that don't believe are pleased to have the holidays that God has given. So they are takers, but if they don't believe then they should not accept the gifts, hypocrisy. Holidays exis because God gave them to us through Israel.

    November 15, 2013 at 5:05 am |
    • AtheistSteve

      And just what might those be? What holidays have been given by God? People celebrate for many reasons. Some holidays are tied to religious ideology but are nonetheless constructs of man, not God. Christians usurped Xmas from earlier pagan winter solstice festivals and Easter was usurped from pagan spring festivals.

      November 15, 2013 at 5:46 am |
    • truthprevails1

      First off, it's not that we're pleased...we simply have no choice-it is one example of how christianity has forced its way in to the lives of people.
      Second, your imaginary friend didn't give us those holidays.
      The Christians Stole Most of Their Traditions from the Pagans

      1. Saturnalia. Saturnalia is a Pagan holiday that starts on December 17 and ends on December 25. The Christians decided they were going to make Christmas on that day, hopefully to get converts. And since Jesus' birthday isn't even in December...

      2. Birthday's. Early Christians didn't celebrate birthdays. That was a Pagan thing.

      3. Christmas things. What does a pine tree sitting in your living room have to do with Jesus? Nothing. The Christians stole that idea from the Pagans. They also stole the idea of candles in the window, putting decorations on the tree, and giving presents. (Though Santa Claus isn't a Pagan thing, the Christians stole that, too).

      4. Easter things. At the beginning of spring, the Pagans would celebrate life buy coloring eggs, because eggs meant the start of a new life and a new season. And bunnies were just cute. And the Christians stole this, too.

      You only show how ignorant of history and reality you are by your claims...an education goes very far in this world, attempt to get one please.

      November 15, 2013 at 5:48 am |
      • treydiego

        Christians didn't invent those holidays, the Roman Catholic Church did. For more than 300 years Christianity was not corrupted by Romans and their pagan practices. There are many Christians in the minority until today that still not corrupted. The Roman Catholic have their own beliefs and practices that contradict the Bible, they don't use the Bible as their source of teaching, don't use them in their Cathedrals for people to read, so stop associating Roman Catholic practices to all Christians.

        November 18, 2013 at 11:45 am |
        • truthprevails1

          So now the RCC isn't christian? As long as you follow the same bible, you are all christian regardless of what denomination you pay heed to. And you're wrong, those holidays all have Pagan under tones to them.

          November 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Pete

      A few of our holidays are secular, like the fourth, and I suppose we would have created other holidays simply out of the need to break up the work year with the occasional long weekend.

      Do you thank Saturn for having a day off after Frigg's day?

      November 15, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Judica

      Holidays? That is the weakest argument I've ever heard. "Believe in God because of the Fourth of July and Labor Day!"

      November 15, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • aldewacs2

      Congrats. In the contest of silly statements, your wins the medallion.

      November 15, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.