Vatican mulls excommunicating mobsters and the corrupt

Excommunication could be on the cards for mobsters and the corrupt following an international debate hosted by the Vatican, Italian media said Sunday.

Vatican mulls excommunicating mobsters and the corrupt
Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

Some 50 dignitaries, including several ambassadors to the Holy See, magistrates and police representatives attended the “International Debate on Corruption” to address means of tackling the issue.

The group agreed in a closing statement on the importance of deepening international cooperation to stem corruption.

The Vatican said it was time to put excommunication on the table as a legal sanction for “corruption and mafia association”.

Excommunication is a severe punishment in Catholic doctrine, in that it excludes those sanctioned from holy communion sacraments.

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Pope Francis has already been active in the fight against corruption. In 2014, he visited the 'Ndrangheta mafia's southern heartland and warned excommunication awaited anyone who followed the criminal path.

There have been cases of local bishops excommunicating mobsters in Sicily or Campania, around Naples, fiefdom of the Camorra — but to date there is no actual legal framework surrounding the sanction.

“We asked ourselves why the rest of Italy and the world should not have the same rules,” said Monsignor Michele Pennisi, archbishop of Monreale in Sicily and a member of the working group.

“The (expert) group raised the problems of Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers — so we need a 'penal decree', a formal legal act at the national and global level,” he told La Stampa daily.

Federico Cafiero de Raho, prosecutor general at Reggio di Calabria, capital of the Calabria region, told the same paper that raising the possibility of formally introducing the sanction of excommunication sends out “a very important signal” given “the Church holds great sway here.”

Relations between the Church and organised crime have been seen to be intertwined to a degree, for example with mafia sponsorship of religious processions.

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Pope calls for a quicker vaccine rollout in Italy’s Easter Sunday message

Pope Francis proclaimed vaccines an "essential tool" in ending the pandemic in his Easter Sunday address and urged their swift rollout to the world's poorest countries.

Pope calls for a quicker vaccine rollout in Italy's Easter Sunday message
Pope Francis delivers his Urbi et Orbi Blessing, after celebrating Easter Mass on April 04, 2021 at St. Peter's Basilica in The Vatican during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / POOL / AFP)

On the holiest holiday for the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics and the second under the shadow of the coronavirus crisis, the Pope focused his message on the world’s most vulnerable – the sick, migrants, people facing economic hardship, and those living in war zones like Syria, Yemen and Libya.

“The pandemic is still spreading, while the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for the poor,” the 84-year-old Argentine said, speaking to a congregation of only around 100 people inside the vast St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Vaccines are an essential tool in this fight,” he said, calling on the international community to overcome delays in distributing vaccines, “especially in the poorest countries”.

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Francis, who has focused on the plight of vulnerable groups since becoming pope in 2013, had already warned rich nations against vaccine hoarding in an address to the UN General Assembly in September.

The pope said it was “scandalous” that armed conflicts around the world had not ceased. He called for an end to the war in Syria, “where millions of people are presently living in inhumane conditions”, and in Yemen “whose situation has met with a deafening and scandalous silence”.

A deserted St. Peter’s Square in The Vatican, after the Pope’s Easter Mass and Urbi et Orbi blessing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

He also expressed his closeness to Myanmar’s youth – “committed to supporting democracy” – called for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, and urged an end to violence in Africa, citing Nigeria, the Sahel, Northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region and Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.

“There are still too many wars and too much violence in the world,” Francis said, adding that April 4th marked an awareness day against landmines, “insidious and horrible devices”.

An Easter message in Lockdown before a key month in Italy

The Pope’s Easter “Urbi et Orbi” (To the city and the world) message in the Vatican came as 60 million Italians spent the Easter holiday under lockdown.

The whole of Italy, the first country in Europe to have been hit by the coronavirus, has been declared a high-risk “red zone” from Saturday through Monday, with restrictions on movement and restaurants closed along with non-essential retail.

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Despite the gloom, there have been hopeful signs that vaccinations are gaining pace in Italy, while infection rates dipped in late March – although emergency rooms remain under enormous strain.

April is set to be a crucial month for Italy’s vaccine rollout, with authorities hoping to administer 300,000 doses per day within two weeks, according to the country’s coronavirus commissioner, General Francesco Paolo Figliuolo.

Three regions, including that of Veneto, which includes Venice, are also preparing to slightly loosen their anti-coronavirus rules from Tuesday onwards, passing from the most restrictive “red” zone to “orange”.