Pope Francis attends a vigil with families of mafia victims, calling on mobsters to stop doing evil.
ROME, ITALY (MARCH 21, 2014) (CTV) - Pope Francis attended an annual vigil held by the families of victims of mafia violence on Friday (March 21), underscoring the continuing force of one of Italy's oldest economic, political and cultural problems.
The pope met with about 900 relatives of people murdered by the mafia.
Francis spoke at the end of the reading of the victims' names which started at 5:30 p.m. (1630 GMT).
He ended his address with a message to mafia members.
"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 pope added.
The mafia continues to be scourge for much of southern Italy, and just four days ago, a four-year-old boy was shot to death near the southern city of Taranto in a suspected mob hit that also killed the boy's mother and her boyfriend.
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."
Organised crime controls almost all economic and criminal activity in Calabria, Sicily and parts of Campania and Apulia, and it has greatly extended its influence to Rome andMilan in the past two decades.
Italy's main crime groups - the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, the Calabrian 'Ndrangheta and the Camorra from around the southern city of Naples - have a joint annual turnover of 116 billion euros ($159.89 billion), according to a United Nations estimate.