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Pope urges mafia members to convert or risk Hell in powerful statement

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At a meeting with victims of mafia violence Friday at Rome's St. Gregory VII Parish, Pope Francis called on members of organized crime to amend their lives and seek forgiveness and reconciliation. “This must begin from within, from the conscience, and from there restore, restore behaviors, relationships, choices, the social fabric, so that justice will flourish, take root, and take the place of iniquity,” said the Pope. “I know you feel this hope strongly, and I want to share it with you, to tell you I’ll be with you again, this night and tomorrow … even if I cannot physically come, I’ll be with you in this way, which requires tenacity, and perseverance.” Francis also used some of the most theologically "damning" language of his pontificate to describe the mafiosi's present behavior.

“I wish to pray with you – and I do this from my heart – for all the victims of the mafia,” the Holy Father said, calling the recent killing of a family of a convicted murderer on the road in in their car, which included an infant child, by members of the mafia “a crime that has no mercy, not even for a baby.”

“I feel that I cannot conclude without saying a word to the protagonists who are absent today -- the men and women mafiosi. Please change your lives, convert yourselves, stop perpetrating evil!” the Pope forcefully exclaimed. “And we pray for you. I ask this on my knees. It is for your good … the power and money that you have now from many dirty dealings, from many mafia crimes – blood money, power gained with blood – you cannot bring them with you to the next life.”

Some in the secular media have expressed wonderment at what they seem to see as the Holy Father accepting sin, or "not judging" anyone. The Pope was very clear as to the eternal fate that may await some members of the mafia if they do not repent, return to the practice of the faith, and change their lives. “Be converted, you still have time, so as not to end up in hell. That is what is waiting for you if you continue on this path," the

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