Pope seeks to ”liberate” Virgin Mary from the Mafia

Pope Francis has given his blessing to a new Vatican think tank that is seeking to prevent the Mafia and organized crime groups from exploiting the image of the Virgin Mary for their own illicit ends

ROME — Pope Francis is giving his blessing to a new Vatican think tank that is seeking to prevent the Mafia and organized crime groups from exploiting the image of the Virgin Mary for their own illicit ends.

In a message from the pope read out at the start of the conference, held at Rome’s Museum of Civilizations, Francis said the religious and cultural image and patrimony of the Madonna “must be preserved in its original purity.”

He said any popular displays of devotion to Mary must “conform to the message of the Gospel and the teachings of the church,” and that people participating in them must be true Christians who look out for others, and especially the poor.

St. John Paul II in 1993 famously demanded Mafiosi convert, change their ways or face the wrath of God’s final judgment as he made a historic visit to Sicily after the mob slayings of two leading anti-Mafia prosecutors.

Francis has followed in that tradition, declaring that mobsters were “excommunicated” and saying mobsters can’t live Christian lives because their lifestyle “blasphemes” God. Marian devotion is particularly important to Francis, history’s first pope from Latin America, where displays of such popular piety are common.

Francis’ message to the new think tank, which includes clergy as well as law enforcement experts involved in the fight against organized crime, was dated Aug. 15, a major Catholic feast day devoted to Mary.

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