UK & World News
Pope Tells Mafia: Repent Or Prepare For Hell
Pope Francis has warned members of the mafia that they will go to hell if they do not repent and renounce evil.
Speaking at a prayer vigil for relatives of victims of organised crime, the Pontiff said: "The power, the money, that you have now coming from so many dirty businesses, so many Mafiosi crimes, it's blood-stained money, blood-stained power, you can't bring it with you to your next life. Repent.
"There's still time to not end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path."
His appearance marked the first time a pope has attended the annual event - now in its 19th year - which is held on the first day of spring.
At the vigil held in Rome's San Gregorio church, Francis met around 900 relatives of people murdered by the mafia.
After expressing his solidarity with the family members, he said that he could not leave the service without speaking to those not present: the "protagonists" of mafia violence.
"I feel that I cannot finish without addressing those who are greatly absent today, the protagonists who are not here, the men and women who are part of the mafia. Please, change your lifestyle, convert, stop doing evil," he said.
"Convert, you still have time not to end up in hell, that is what awaits you if you continue on this path. You too had a father and a mother, think of them, cry a little and convert."
The brutality of Italy's gangsters was highlighted this week following the death of Domenico Petruzzelli, a two-year-old killed along with his mother and her companion in a suspected mob hit in the southern city of Taranto in which assailants opened fire on their car.
In January, after the charred body of a three-year-old boy was found in a burned car alongside his grandfather and another woman, Francis urged the suspected mafia killers to "repent and convert to the Lord".
The Pope has spoken out frequently about the evils of corruption, and wrote a short booklet on corruption and sin in 2005 when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.