Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pope Versus Mafia

It sounds like the plot of a bad action movie. According to an Italian state prosecutor, Pope Francis may be in danger from the ‘Ndrangheta, a mafia-like organized crime syndicate with ties to the Roman Catholic Church. Francis strongly denounced organized crime back in May, and is moving to reform the church and limit its economic power.

Nicola Gratteri, 55, a state prosecutor in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where the ‘Ndrangheta is most active, said the pope’s effort to reform the church is making the ‘Ndrangheta “very nervous.” The organization is considered by experts in Italy to be the most dangerous, most unified and most difficult to penetrate mafia-type organization in the country.

“I cannot say if the organization is in a position to do something like this, but they are dangerous and it is worth reflecting on,” Gratteri warned. “If the godfathers can find a way to stop him, they will seriously consider it. Those who have up until now profited from the influence and wealth drawn from the church are getting very nervous,” he added. “For many years, the mafia has laundered money and made investments with the complicity of the church. But now the pope is dismantling the poles of economic power in the Vatican, and that is dangerous.”

Gratteri noted that in southern Italy organized crime figures have strong and high-profile relationships with local church leaders, who help give the crime figures legitimacy.

If Francis succeeds in his efforts, the ‘Ndrangheta financial base will be significantly undermined. It seems that the pope's widely recognized reasonableness includes stamping down corruption within the church itself, and this is making the beneficiaries of said corruption quite concerned. Hopefully Francis will press forward despite these threats and clean up the mess that Vatican finances have become. He certainly shows no signs of letting up.

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