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Pope slams mafias as 'organizations of sin'

March 21, 2021

The Roman Catholic pontiff urged the people to fight against the Mafia and other organized crime groups, accusing the criminals of "exploiting the pandemic."

Pope Francis speaks at the Vatican
Pope Francis took aim at the mafia in an address on SundayImage: Catholic Press Photo/dpa/picture alliance

Pope Francis condemned organized crime networks on Sunday, particularly for using the coronavirus pandemic to expand their influence.

He also called for better access to clean drinking water around the world.

What did the pope say about the mob?

Following his weekly Sunday address, Francis called on people around the world to fight against organized crime.

"Mafias are present in various parts of the world and, exploiting the pandemic, have enriched themselves through corruption," Francis said.

The pontiff's censure of the mob on Sunday coincided with Italy's day of remembrance for victims of the Mafia.

"These organizations of sin, mafia structures, exchange faith for idolatry, contrary to the Gospel of Christ. Today we remember all the victims and renew our commitment against mafias," he said.

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What did Francis say about water access?

In separate remarks earlier on Sunday, Francis also appealed for better global access to drinking water, criticizing that it is often bottled and sold instead of being freely available.

The pope said far "too many people have access to (only) a little water and that (which) is possibly polluted.''

He added that drinking water "isn't some good of commerce, but (the) fount of life and health."

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2 billion people received their drinking water from sources that are contaminated by feces.

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How criminal rings are profiting from the pandemic

Interpol issued a global alert in December, warning that criminal networks are now targeting coronavirus vaccines.

Earlier in March, police in South Africa seized hundreds of fake vaccines and arrested four suspects.

A similar fake vaccine discovery was made in Mexico on Thursday. Authorities uncovered thousands of doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, which Russian officials later said appeared to be fake.

In Italy, authorities say criminal organizations have been taking advantage of the hardship wrought by the coronavirus pandemic to exploit lower-income families.

In a bid to expand their influence, some criminal clans have been offering food and loans to financially stretched families.

Loan sharks working on behalf of the mob are also bailing out businesses hit hard by the pandemic and lockdown restrictions — but demanding high interest rates in return, police say.

rs/dj (AFP, Reuters, AP)