June 21st, 2014
02:04 PM ET

Pope excommunicates Italian mobsters

By Delia Gallagher, CNN

(CNN) - Using his strongest language to date, Pope Francis told Italian Mafia members Saturday that they are excommunicated from the Catholic Church.

“Those who in their life have gone along the evil ways, as in the case of the Mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated," Francis said.

It is the first time a Pope has spoken of excommunication for the Mafia.

Excommunication, which excludes Catholics from the church, can be imposed by church authorities or incurred automatically for certain grave offenses.

The Pope’s remarks will resonate strongly in this part of southern Italy, where the Mafia attempt to portray themselves as upstanding religious men in good rapport with the Catholic Church, in order to maintain local credibility.

During a one-day visit to Calabria, in southern Italy, the Pope denounced the local mafia, called ‘Ndrangheta, as an example of “the adoration of evil and contempt for the common good.”

According to reports, ‘Ndrangheta is one of the wealthiest international crime organizations, with an annual turnover of 53 billion euros, much of it from the global cocaine trade.

Calabria also suffers from 56% youth unemployment, which the Mafia exploits with promises of jobs for disillusioned young people.

“They must be told, No!” the Pope said to a crowd of over 100,000 gathered in Piana di Sibari, Calabria, for an outdoor Mass.

Prosecutor: Pope faces threat from the mafia

Earlier during his visit, Pope Francis met with relatives of a 3-year-old boy, Nicola Campolongo, who was the victim of an alleged Mafia hit in January. Nicknamed Coco, the boy was with his grandfather when they were both shot and their bodies subsequently burned in a car.

It is not the first time the Pope has spoken out against the Mafia. In March in Rome at a meeting with families of victims, the Pope called directly on Mafia bosses to repent, saying "hell ... awaits you if you continue on this road.”

Some anti-mafia prosecutors have worried that mobsters may target Pope Francis, who is reforming the Vatican, including its scandal-scarred bank, the Institute for Religious Works.

"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, an anti-mob prosecutor in Calabria, told CNN in November.

(CNN's Daniel Burke contributed to this report.) 

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

soundoff (743 Responses)
  1. brenna56

    Pope Frances is such a remarkable man. I am not Catholic, but I have so much respect for him. I pray for his safety.

    June 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm |
    • tallulah131

      Well he certainly is a propaganda coup for the catholic church. He says a lot, but he really doesn't actually do much, does he?

      June 21, 2014 at 7:49 pm |
    • doobzz

      I'll start respecting him when he actually does something, like turn the pe do phi le priests over to the civil authorities for investigation.

      Until then, it's just pretty words and slick public relations.

      June 21, 2014 at 9:20 pm |
  2. lachaparrita

    “Those who in their life have gone along the evil ways, as in the case of the Mafia, they are not with God, they are excommunicated," Francis said.

    Ummm, the RCC are not with God either!

    June 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm |
    • G to the T

      "Ummm, the RCC are not with God either!"

      Opinion – and not one shared by the majority of christians (btw) – who are predominantly Catholic. If RCC isn't with god, then none of the christianities that sprang from it are likely to be either.

      So I guess we should all go Greek Orthodox?

      June 23, 2014 at 4:18 pm |
  3. cfanlonc

    So let's hear the names of the mobsters. C'mon Pope.

    June 21, 2014 at 6:21 pm |
    • nepawoods


      June 21, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
    • nathanbrazil

      Why would he need to know their names?

      June 21, 2014 at 6:39 pm |
  4. jamesfotd

    Why is this news? Please, just ignore these idiots. Let them play dress up and make believe while the rest of the world evolves.

    June 21, 2014 at 5:42 pm |
    • nathanbrazil

      Who, the mobsters?

      June 21, 2014 at 6:40 pm |
  5. daphnerp

    I am not a religious person...but I love this Pope. I hope he lives a long life after this latest deed.

    June 21, 2014 at 5:20 pm |
  6. onestarman

    Excommunicating the Murderers and Drug Dealers is probably a Better Policy than the one that made the Vatican Bank the financial arm of the Italian Mafia for all these years

    June 21, 2014 at 5:14 pm |
  7. nuyawker1944

    It's sad to see this and then reflect that an earlier Pope could have excommunicated certain German or Croatian Nazis, for example. It might have made a difference. Maybe not.

    June 21, 2014 at 5:11 pm |
  8. san2c

    In other big news, I dropped a perfect C coil in the toilet this morning.

    June 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm |
    • onestarman

      How are you still talking after losing half your Brain?

      June 21, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
  9. jimatmad

    This is the first pope in many, many years who seems to have some common sense and decency.

    June 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm |
    • brenna56


      June 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm |
    • nepawoods

      He opposes legal marijuana, but is fine with legal alcohol. So no common sense.

      June 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm |
  10. scottoest

    Kudos to the Pope for taking on the threat to his safety this represents, but I'm kind of staggered to learn that this is the first time the church or Pope has ever spoken out against, let alone ex-communicated, the (largely Catholic) Italian mob?

    Christ, your average 12 year old understands the mob are a bunch of immoral thugs.

    June 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
    • nathanbrazil

      It is a little more complicated than that. Excommunication is not taken lightly. When you are in a church that espouses forgiveness for anything if you repent, saying you are out and beyond redemption is a serious step. It is a step I am glad he took. You don't see the Italian Prime Minister taking such a stand.

      June 21, 2014 at 6:43 pm |
  11. Alias

    Well done Francis!
    I'm sure that the thugs and murderers all around the world will now rethink just how important it is to follow jesus. I bet they are already lining up an the cofessional. Soon they will all be running legitimate businesses and making amends for all of their sins.

    June 21, 2014 at 4:45 pm |
    • deesmygaldeesmygal

      I guess it's OK to molest children but if you are in the mob or what to smoke pot then you are kicked out.

      I thought that everyone had a chance to be forgiven, what's up with that?

      June 21, 2014 at 4:53 pm |
      • Alias

        Either that, or he really believes in heaven and is in a hurry to gert there.

        June 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
      • radar8

        Using that circular logic, if all one had to do, to go to heaven, was repent on their deathbed, there would be no real reason to be good. The whole idea of heaven and hell is to control people.

        It's basically be good or suffer for eternity. Of course, the Church used to allow murderers and thieves pay a special fee to receive dispensation. Martin Luthor had a cow about that one.

        June 21, 2014 at 5:24 pm |
        • Akira

          Martin Lutger was an anti-Semitic hypocrite. So, there's that.

          June 21, 2014 at 8:19 pm |
        • Akira

          I cannot type today.

          June 21, 2014 at 8:20 pm |
  12. nr14557

    No one knows the answer to certain questions about our existence. The concept of 'God' is an idea, which was conceived to address this issue. The idea of "God" can be manipulated by anyone, who chooses to do so.

    June 21, 2014 at 4:36 pm |
    • michaelbmajor

      Do you believe that there is a god?

      June 21, 2014 at 5:50 pm |
      • nepawoods

        There's no evidence that any incorporeal sentient being exists, or any idea how one could exist. That includes God. But we've evolved to have this capacity to believe in such an imaginary being, and at times benefit from believing in it.

        June 21, 2014 at 6:38 pm |
  13. greengestalt

    Wow! A Christan who walks the walk.
    I'm impressed. Just worried he'll get assassinated (esp since he ditched the RoboPope van) and then a "Conservative" will get put in his place to (allegedly) help cover for pedo priests and bless the Mafia openly...

    June 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
    • trialwatcher

      If he is assassinated Italy should start a civil war against the Mafia, as everyone will know who killed him. The people in Italy, and all over the world, love him and will not just "let it go" and cringe like cowards. He will be the biggest MARTYR of all time. I am third generation Italian and I am ashamed that Italy has allowed these vicious criminals to intimidate them. NO MORE, if they kill Pope Francis. Mark my words.

      June 21, 2014 at 5:04 pm |
    • tallulah131

      I doubt that the mobsters are actually concerned with what a religious figurehead says. They'd probably be more concerned if it were the head of a law enforcement agency.

      June 21, 2014 at 5:37 pm |
  14. flightfromfrostmtn

    Lets hope the mobsters take this lightly- and if not, i hope they have the brains to realize that bringing harm to this guy would be stupid....

    June 21, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
  15. sunnylovetts2

    God gave you life, go outside and praise Him.

    June 21, 2014 at 4:25 pm |
    • freefromtheism


      June 21, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
      • sunnylovetts2

        He made you to be witness to His creation. He made humanity last, because we were the cherry on top of His creation. What good is a painting if no one is there to see it? Give Him praise, and thank Him for being patient with you, yes you of little faith. God has not left your side.

        June 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm |
        • freefromtheism

          Why is that worthy of praise?!?

          June 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm |
        • whippstippler7

          @ sunny: what should we praise a god that gives children cancer?

          June 21, 2014 at 4:56 pm |
      • trialwatcher

        He just said why.

        June 21, 2014 at 5:06 pm |
        • whippstippler7

          So we're god's playthings? He gave us life, and so he can do whatever horrible things he wants to us, and we have to keep kissing his divine butt? No thanks.

          June 21, 2014 at 5:19 pm |
    • bostontola

      Praise Ahura Mazda.

      June 21, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
      • ontheotherhand1

        Praise Mazda Miata!

        June 21, 2014 at 4:43 pm |
        • Alias

          And her co-worker Lexus.
          You should see that woman work on the pole!!!

          June 21, 2014 at 4:50 pm |
    • tallulah131

      Your god demanded human sacrifice because he refused to accept heart-felt contrition. Your god is a monster.

      June 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
  16. bostontola

    It's a good thing the pope is doing, but does anyone think the mafia bosses care. They probably look at this no differently than if J. K. Rowlings excommunicated them from Hogwarts.

    June 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm |
    • freefromtheism

      But maybe that's not the point; perhaps the point is to let everyone else know that the (Catholic) Church does not accept those that act and live in certain ways.

      June 21, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
      • bostontola

        You mean, the RCC no longer accepts them. They did for decades and accepted their donations. The RCC is as contingent as any human inst.itution.

        June 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm |
  17. cmeegan69

    To all of you who believe he has not addressed the pedophilic priests: please pay closer attention to him. Imagine if you actually kept up with the news. Pope Francis has addressed about everything wrong on this planet, including what we as Catholics are doing wrong. I do believe his next stop should be the everlasting war in the Middle East, however. I know he has addressed it, but maybe a little more fervor this time...!

    June 21, 2014 at 4:14 pm |
    • tallulah131

      The pope has spoken of a lot of things. But until his deeds match his actions, why should anyone care?

      June 21, 2014 at 4:16 pm |
      • Aquí Y. Allá

        You care enough to comment...

        June 21, 2014 at 4:26 pm |
        • tallulah131

          I comment because I am confused by people who think that words have any value when actions do not match them.

          June 21, 2014 at 5:15 pm |
  18. christopherkwun

    How do Catholics know that a 'divine being' even communicates with humans?

    June 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
    • sunnylovetts2

      We believe and God speaks to our faith, and gives us faith we didn't have.
      He is fully alive, and fully Spirit.

      June 21, 2014 at 4:27 pm |
      • ontheotherhand1

        Holy nonsensical doublespeak Batman!

        June 21, 2014 at 4:46 pm |
      • Alias

        And people who look hard enough can find UFOs.
        People who belileve in ghosts see them most often too.
        If you are convinced a huge prehistoric fish is in Lock Ness, you will think each and ever splash proves Nessy is alive and well.

        June 21, 2014 at 4:54 pm |
  19. christopherkwun

    While agree that Christianity has done much to save lives and teach humanity good morals, I question the rationale of Catholicism's hierarchical order.

    How is it that Catholics knows the hierarchical order–that it is 'the Pope' deemed worthy–for 'G-d' or some 'higher being' to communicate to people the 'right course' of living?

    June 21, 2014 at 4:12 pm |
    • doogzidog

      Catholic church heirarchy is to provide human structure to the church. As for the right course of living, the Prophecy of Jeremiah is fullfilled through Christ: (the Pope is no more holier, nor has better communication to G-d than any other believer: Jer 33:31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

      June 21, 2014 at 4:33 pm |
  20. sunnylovetts2

    Your sins are not bigger or greater than God's unfailing Love over your life.

    June 21, 2014 at 4:10 pm |
    • tallulah131

      What sort of person lets another be tortured to death for their own crimes? What sort of person thinks that they deserve eternity in paradise for letting another be tortured to death for their own crimes? Do you ever think about what you believe or why?

      June 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm |
      • sunnylovetts2

        We don't deserve it, and no one forced God's hand to do it, He did it because He loved us even while we were still sinners, so He paid the price we deserved to pay to bring us back to the place we are meant to be,
        heaven where life has no end, and all sorrows meet theirs.

        June 21, 2014 at 4:15 pm |
        • flightfromfrostmtn

          think about omnipotence for a second. It will hit you eventually how absurd a power of the magnitude would willfully create....this.

          June 21, 2014 at 4:51 pm |
        • tallulah131

          What sort of god do you worship, that you think that human sacrifice is acceptable?

          June 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm |
      • idiotusmaximus

        Do you ever think about what you believe or why?

        Or why you waste your time on such crap?

        June 21, 2014 at 7:24 pm |
    • whippstippler7

      So Go loves us so much that he gives babies cancer, and young children leukaemia, and he lets young girls get ra-ped, and he wipes out hundreds of thousands of people with tsunamis?

      June 21, 2014 at 4:34 pm |
      • Joeseph Eclaire

        Gee, for someone who doesn't believe in God you sure place a good deal of blame on it.
        What happens when Hillary loses in 2016, will you be blaming this same God ?

        Try this one out, this God does not interfere in the workings of mankind, nor the inherit disease's we are all born with. You understand that ? Let me break it down for you some more in case you don't. In the grand scheme of things mankind is but a c ockaroaches subject to be squashed under foot at anytime, meaning this God really doesn't give a rat-s a– about mankind here on earth.

        Which by the way has been the Earths greatest curse.

        June 21, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
        • whippstippler7

          @ Joe: no, I don;t blame a god, because I don't believe in gods. I was simply making the point that people who'd do believe and claim that their god takes an active role and interest in their lives can never come up with a satisfactory answer about all of the horrible things that happen in the world. It strikes me as hypercritical to praise a god for the good, but not hold that same god responsible for the bad.

          June 21, 2014 at 5:16 pm |
        • Joeseph Eclaire

          You missed the point, God is not responsible for the bad, mankind is.
          It's called 'free will'.
          And we are all born with a the choice to be good or bad, what road we take is up to us.

          And some are even born 'inherently evil'.

          June 21, 2014 at 5:25 pm |
        • whippstippler7

          @ Joe – no, I didm;t miss the point. Given that I don;t believe in god, it follows that I believe that "god" is not responsible for good or evil. I'm not sure what your belief system is: perhaps belief in a god that doesn't interfere with mankind?

          June 21, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
        • Joeseph Eclaire

          ...as oppose to what, science that I create the test to validate. Perhaps your God is d ope, maybe h-o-m-o-s-e-x-u-l-I-t-y, Facebook, infowars, Reedit ?

          Hey what ever gets through, but don't look for excuse towards certain behaviors. And stop blaming something you have clue about except what religion has p imp to the masses. Hint: Mankind created religion.

          June 21, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
        • whippstippler7

          @ Joe: I honestly have NO idea what your point is.

          June 21, 2014 at 7:36 pm |
        • tallulah131

          Joe (who cannot even spell Joseph properly) is a troll.

          June 21, 2014 at 7:48 pm |
        • realbuckyball

          How EXACTLY is mankind responsible for 6 year-olds getting cancer ?

          June 22, 2014 at 8:16 am |
    • ontheotherhand1

      And what if there is a god who created the earth, sun, moon, stars and universe and who has no more regard for us than we do for the ants beneath our feet? Does it deserve all this praise? Because the Bible says so? The old testament of fairy tales (Start at the earth being made in 7 days and go from there) or the new testament which is a compilation of stories selected by a papal committee of which none were written until 60 years, at the earliest, after Christ died? Have faith and pray but it could do as much good as praying to Zeus or Quetzalcoatl.

      June 21, 2014 at 5:06 pm |
    • idiotusmaximus

      I may just puke sunny.

      June 21, 2014 at 7:23 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.