“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.”
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.”
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.