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MAFIA

Pope criticises the mafia for ‘exploiting’ the pandemic

Pope Francis launched a fresh attack on the mafia on Sunday, Italy's day of remembrance for victims of the mob, describing them as "organisations of sin" who have exploited the coronavirus pandemic.

Pope criticises the mafia for 'exploiting' the pandemic
The Pope condemns those in the mafia as "blasphemous". (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP)

“Mafias are present in various parts of the world and, exploiting the pandemic, have enriched themselves through corruption,” the pontiff said after his weekly Sunday Angelus address.

Referring to his predecessors as head of the Catholic church, he added: “St John Paul II denounced their culture of death and Benedict XVI condemned them as a road of death.

“These organisations of sin, mafia structures, exchange faith for idolatry, contrary to the Gospel of Christ. Today we remember all the victims and renew our commitment against mafias.”

READ ALSO: ‘Free to choose’: The scheme helping women and children leave Italy’s mafia clans

In an open-air mass in Sicily in September 2018, during a trip to honour a priest murdered by the mob 25 years earlier, Pope Francis condemned those who belong to the mafia as “blasphemous”.

His impassioned plea echoed the words of Jean Paul II who, during a May 1993 trip to the island, had also called on mobsters to abandon crime, and urged Sicilians to revolt against the mafia.

Italy’s anti-mafia organisation Libera has for many years been remembering the victims of organised crime on March 21, but in recent years it has become an official national day of commemoration.

In a statement on Sunday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said: “Eradicating the mafia is possible and necessary.”

READ ALSO: ‘Ndrangheta: Major Italian mafia ‘maxi-trial’ kicks off with over 350 defendants

A mafia drug ring was dismantled earlier this month in the southern Calabria region, after a grandma tipped off Italian police.

“People have suffered and seen the arrogance of these criminals who insisted on extorting money,” anti-mafia prosecutor Nicola Gratteri told the Gazzetta del Sud daily.

READ ALSO: Meet Nicola Gratteri, the prosecutor leading Italy’s battle against the mafia

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CRIME

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.

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