Speaking in Ostia, a suburb of Rome, Francis urged residents to stop the silence that has terrorized the community. The town is home to the infamous Spada crime family.
Pope Francis visited Ostia, the mafia-plagued suburb of Rome, on Sunday, urging residents to stop protecting mobsters out of fear, and to side with the law.
Francis spoke of "omerta," the social code that mafia syndicates enforce on their members and their communities, which criminals use to keep people from talking to the police.
"Jesus wants the walls of indifference and 'omerta' to be breached, iron bars of oppression and arrogance torn asunder, and paths cleared for justice, civility and legality," he said.
He told the people of Ostia to throw off "the moorings of fear and depression," and be courageous.
The pope was in the once-tranquil seaside community to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi. Normally, the pontiff oversees this ceremony in the heart of Rome, walking between two basilicas. But this year he chose to walk between two working-class parishes in Ostia, a town of about 230,000 people, to show solidarity with the frightened and oppressed inhabitants.
Dozens of mafiosi arrested
In January, Italian authorities arrested dozens of accused members of the Spada crime family, who officials claim run multiple extortion rackets involving beach concessions and restaurants as well as participating in drug trafficking.
The Spada family made international headlines last year when Roberto Spada physically assaulted an investigative journalist outside of a gym he owns. Roberto and his older brother Carmine were among those arrested in January.
Police say the brothers ordered the assassinations of Francesco "Little Moustache" Antonini and Giovanni "Black Rat" Galleoni in 2011. The two were gunned down in front of crowded bars and restaurants just a few steps from the beach.
Things got so bad in 2014 that the town was nicknamed the "mafia capital," and was placed under the control of a commissioner from the central government due to concerns that local authorities had been infiltrated by organized crime.
es/aw (AP, Reuters)