Pope Francis urged people to continue the fight against organized crime groups on Sunday, warning that criminals were continuing to use the COVID-19 pandemic to further their profits.
Last December, Interpol warned that organized criminal syndicates were targeting COVID-19 vaccines for their next scheme. In March, South African police seized hundreds of fake vaccines and arrested four suspects.
Pope Francis stated at his Sunday noon address, “Mafias are present in various part of the world and, taking advantage of the pandemic, they are enriching themselves through corruption.” The statement was made the day Italy remembers victims of organized crime.
As reported previously on About The Mafia, Italian police say crime families are using the pandemic to buy favor and influence with poor families facing financial doom, offering loans and food. Police say connected loan sharks are demanding extreme interest rates as they bail out businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic.
“These structures of sin, mafia structures, are against the gospel and mistake idolatry for faith,” the pope explained.
Many members of the mafia in Italy see themselves as part of a religious group, calling upon the help of saints and using religious figurines or statues in initiation rituals when a new member is inducted.
The town of Oppido Mamertina made the news in 2014 when locals carrying a statue of the Madonna diverted the route of a procession to pause at the home of a mafia boss, where they proceeded to tilt the statue slightly as if to kneel in a gesture of respect.
“Today, let us remember all the victims and renew our commitment against mafias,” Francis said.
In recent years, the ‘Ndrangheta has overtaken Sicily’s Cosa Nostra as the most powerful Italian crime group, making most of its money from drug trafficking, racketeering and extortion, and even legitimate businesses. It has spread throughout the world and holds a strong front in many countries.
This article was originally posted “here“