Pope Francis Photograph:( Reuters )
Italian police say that crime clans are using coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to win favour with people
Pope Francis urged people to fight organised crime such as the "mafias" on Sunday. He warned that criminals were using coronavirus pandemic for their own benefit.
"Mafias are present in various part of the world and, taking advantage of the pandemic, they are enriching themselves through corruption," Francis said, speaking at his Sunday noon address on the day Italy remembers victims of organised crime.
"These structures of sin, mafia structures, are against the gospel and mistake idolatry for faith," the pope added.
Italian police say that crime clans are using coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to win favour with people. Mafias are offering loans and food to poor families facing financial ruin. Mob loan demanding exorbitant interest rates are bailing out businesses hit by the pandemic, police say.
In December, the Paris-based Interpol police co-ordination issued a global alert warning that organised criminal networks were targeting COVID-19 vaccines. In March, South African police seized hundreds of fake vaccines and arrested four suspects.
In Italy, many members of organised crime see themselves as part of a religious, cult-like group, invoking the help of saints and using religious figurines or statues in initiation rites.
The southern town of Oppido Mamertina made headlines in 2014 when locals carrying a statue of the Madonna diverted the route of a procession to pause at the home of a mob boss and tilted the statue slightly as if to kneel in a sign of respect.
"Today, let us remember all the victims and renew our commitment against mafias," Francis said.
(With Reuters inputs)