UK & World News
Italy: Pope Denounces 'Evil' Crime Syndicate
Pope Francis has described an Italian crime syndicate as "the adoration of evil", adding Mafiosi "are excommunicated".
He was speaking about the 'ndrangheta group during a Mass in southern Italy.
It was the strongest attack on organised crime since the late Pope John Paul hit out at the Sicilian Mafia in 1993.
Francis made the comments after meeting the father and two grandmothers of a murdered three-year-old in the courtyard of a prison in the town of Castrovillari.
Coco' Campolongo was shot along with one of his grandfathers and the grandfather's companion in an attack blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby Cassano allo Ionio.
The father was in prison at the time of the killings in January.
The gunmen also torched the car with the three victims inside. The Pope publicly expressed his horror at the attack and promised to visit the town.
Francis embraced the father, who asked him to pray for the boy's mother, who was said to be under house arrest.
According to a Vatican spokesman, Francis told him: "May children never again have to suffer in this way."
"The two grandmothers were weeping like fountains," the spokesman added.
Calabria is the power base of the 'ndrangheta, a global drug trafficking syndicate whose activities also include extortion and blackmail.
After greeting 200 male and female inmates at the prison, Francis met patients at a hospice and had lunch with underprivileged people and drugs addicts at a rehabilitation facility.
The 77-year-old appeared to be coping well despite the hectic schedule and scorching temperatures.