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Mafia members are 'excommunicated', Pope Francis says

June 21, 2014 at 1:14 PM ET

Pope Francis delivered a condemning message to Italy’s most powerful Mafia affiliation on Saturday, calling it an example of "the adoration of evil" and saying Mafiosi "are excommunicated."

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"This evil must be fought against, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it,” the pope told a crowd, gathered at a mass in Cassano all'Ionio, a southern Italian town overrun by the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia.

"Those who, in their lives, follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated," Pope Francis said in unprepared comments at a mass before tens of thousands of people. His planned comments included allusions to the evils of abusing money and power, but did not reference the Mafia directly.

Before the mass, the pope visited the imprisoned father of a 3-year-old child, who was found dead in a scorched car in January. The ‘Ndrangheta allegedly killed the toddler and two men in retribution for an unpaid drug debt.

"This evil must be fought against, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it," Pope Francis said during the mass.

Earlier, the pontiff warned local priests to avoid individualism, ego and idol, “which unfortunately are widespread in our diocese.”

Some priests in the area have been investigated for 'Ndrangheta involvement, allowing the mafia affiliate to contribute money for building churches and organizing processions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Pope Francis vowed that the church would devote comprehensive efforts to combat organized crime.

— Elisha Fieldstadt, with Reuters

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