Pope Francis issued a powerful condemnation of the Mafia today, saying the mafiosi and others who follow an evil path "are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated." Never before has a pope specifically referred to "excommunication" of the mafiosi, Reuters notes. The pope was speaking in southern Calabria in Italy, where crime is rampant and the organized crime group 'Ndrangheta is based. That group, he said, showed an "adoration of evil and contempt of the common good."
The "excommunication" comment didn't represent a formal church action, says a Vatican spokesman; instead, it was intended to suggest that the mafiosi's actions had resulted in self-excommunication. The pope wanted to "isolate mafiosi within their own communities." Francis also said the church would fight organized crime and visited with the father of a 3-year-old boy allegedly killed by organized criminals. When Pope John Paul II condemned the Mafia in 1993, members bombed several churches in Rome, Reuters notes. Some have worried that the Mafia could target the pope, but he doesn't seem too worried, Religion News Service notes. He recently told a Spanish newspaper that while "it’s true that anything could happen … let’s face it, at my age, I don’t have much to lose." (Read more Pope Francis stories.)