On Saturday, March 22, Emma Glanfield of The Daily Mail reported that Pope Francis used strong words to urge Italian gangsters to repent and turn away from their lives of violence at a prayer vigil for relatives of people who had been killed by the Mafia.
According to Glanfield, "Pope Francis has hit out at Italian mobsters and warned them they will 'end up in hell' if they don’t change their ways and renounce their 'blood-stained money and blood-stained power'.
"The pontiff made the stark warning following the death this week of two-year-old Domenico Petruzzelli, his mother Carla Maria Fornari and her partner Cosimo Orlando who were killed in a mob hit after assailants opened fire on their car.
"Pope Francis addressed the mobsters after a prayer vigil at a Roman church for relatives of innocent people killed by the mafia, during which the names of 842 victims were read aloud."
On Saturday, March 22, Heather Saul of The Independent recorded some of the comments the Pope made to members of the Mafia.
According to Saul, "Addressing these absentee mafiosi, Francis was unrelenting: 'This life that you live now won't give you pleasure. It won't give you joy or happiness,' he said.
"'Blood-stained money, blood-stained power, you can't bring it with you to your next life. Repent. There's still time to not end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path.'
"'... You had a father, a mother. Think of them,' he said. 'Weep a little. And convert yourselves.'"
It is sometimes difficult to tell where Pope Francis stands on doctrinal and scriptural issues even when he takes the time to explain his views on topics such as homosexuality or the role of women in the Catholic Church, but these comments leave no room for ambiguity. The Pope has given gangsters a straightforward "turn or burn" message urging them to end the bloodshed and give their lives to Christ.
In an ideal world, the Pope's words combined with the senseless tragedy of a two-year-old boy's needless death would encourage members of Italian crime families, who presumably have at least some familiarity with Roman Catholic traditions such as the Biblical commandment "Thou shalt not kill" from growing up around churches, to take hard looks at themselves and begin changing how they live their lives.
Unfortunately, the world is not ideal so it is hard to know if the Pope's words will do anything to help stop the cycle of violence in Italy and around the world. It will be interesting to see if the Pontiff's call to action has an impact on society.