Lifestyle & Belief

Pope Francis asks mafia to 'convert to God' during Sunday mass


Pope Francis waves to worshipers after an open-air mass outside the church of Saints Elizabeth and Zachary in Prime Porta, a suburb of Rome, on May 26, 2013.



A day after declaring a Sicilian priest slain by gangsters a martyr, Pope Francis pleaded with Italy's mafia on Sunday to "convert to God."

The Argentine pontiff, just a few months into his papacy, said organized crime's involvement in human trafficking is a plague on the world, the Associated Press said.

"I think of the great pain suffered by men, women and even children, exploited by so many mafias," he told Sunday mass at St. Peter's Square.

"They cannot make our brothers slaves. Let us pray that these Mafiosi and Mafiose (women) convert to God."

Francis also spoke about Father Pino Puglisi, a priest murdered by mafia 20 years ago trying to keep children away from gangsters.

The Catholic Church beatified Puglisi on Saturday during a ceremony attended by thousands in Palermo.

He's now considered a martyr and is on the road toward sainthood.

He was killed for "depriving the Mafia of support, manpower and control of the city," said Cardinal Paolo Romeo, according to Reuters.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano released a statement that said Puglisi "continues to be an example for all those who refuse to give in to the power of organized crime."

Police arrested six gangsters, later sentenced to life in prison, for the murder.

The pope said Puglisi's work wasn't stopped when he died.

"He took young people away from the mafia, which tried to defeat him by killing him but in reality he is the one who won in the end," Francis said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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