Pope to Mafia: Jesus or Evil – You Cannot Choose Both

Meets With Pilgrims from Calabrian Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio

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Pope Francis has exhorted mafia to open their hearts to the Lord.

Speaking to pilgrims from the Calabrian Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio Saturday morning in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father reminded them how those involved in organized crime are choosing evil over Christ.

Reflecting on his pastoral visit to their diocese on June 21, he recalled how he called out mafia at that time, and reaffirmed his stance today.

During that visit, the Holy Father said Mafiosi “are excommunicated.” This message sparked reactions in Calabria.

In the Calabrian diocese of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi in early July, a statue of the Virgin Mary was made to “bow” before a mob boss and the diocese’s bishop suspended all processions in the area. An anti-mafia prosecutor in the area called the act a “challenge to Pope Francis.»

In his remarks to the audience this weekend, the Pope said he would like to reaffirm a thought he suggested during his visit. “Those who love Jesus, who hear and receive the Word and who live in a sincere response to the call of the Lord, cannot in any way give the works of evil,” the Pope said.

“Jesus or evil!” the Pope stressed, noting you can’t choose both.

Those who violate the dignity of persons, he said, cannot call themselves Christians.

“External gestures of religiosity, not accompanied by real and public conversion,” the Pope said, “are not enough to be considered in communion with Christ and his Church.”

Neither are such gestures sufficient, he underscored, for those with malice, arrogance, and lawlessness to call themselves believers.

“To those who have chosen the path of evil and to be involved in criminal organizations,” the Pope said, “I renew the pressing invitation to conversion.”

“Open your heart to the Lord! Open your heart to the Lord!” he said. “The Lord is waiting for you and the Church welcomes you if,” he said, «just as you willingly served evil, now you serve the good.»

In addition to these exhortations against organized crime, the Pope spoke about all the good their diocese is doing and reflected on the many positive aspects of his pastoral visit there this summer.

“Dear brothers and sisters of Cassano, the beauty of your land is a gift from God and a heritage to preserve and pass, in all its splendor, for future generations,” Francis reflected. “Therefore, it must be the courageous commitment of all, starting from the institutions, that it is not scarred beyond repair by narrow interests.”

«Oppose the culture of death and be witnesses of the Gospel of Life!» he said.

The Holy Father concluded, inviting those present to join him in saying a Hail Mary, asking them to pray for him, thanking them for their visit, and imparting his Apostolic Blessing.

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On ZENIT’s website:

For the full text of the Holy Father’s address, go to: 


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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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