The Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the western world, and with more than one billion members worldwide, it is the largest Christian church. Its history spans almost 2,000 years and is rooted in the Church's Canon of Scripture and Tradition. At the head of the church is the Pope, who Catholics believe is the successor to Saint Peter whom Christ appointed as the first head of His church. The Pope, according to the religion's doctrine, can speak infallibly on matters of faith and morals. The Catholic Church practises closed communion and only baptised members of the church are permitted to receive the Eucharist, or Holy Communion.
Pope Francis says mafia members 'excommunicated' from the Church
Pope Francis yesterday took on one of Italy's most dangerous organised crime groups, calling it an example of "the adoration of evil" and saying mafiosi "are excommunicated".
The pope, speaking about the 'Ndrangheta crime group during a mass in southern Italy, issued the strongest attacks on organised crime since the late Pope John Paul lambasted the Sicilian mafia in 1993.
"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 impromptu comments at a mass before tens of thousands of people. He told the crowd: "This evil must be fought against. It must be pushed aside. We must say no to it."
He branded the 'Ndrangheta as the "adoration of evil and contempt of the common good" and said the Catholic Church would exert its full force in efforts to combat organised crime.
"Our children are asking for it. Our young people are asking for it. They are in need of hope and faith can help respond to this need," he said.
Earlier, the pope comforted the jailed father of a three-year-old boy killed in an ambush and condemned mob violence against children. Francis flew by helicopter to the southern Calabria region, home of the mafia-style 'Ndrangheta.
The pope made the trip in part to pay tribute Nicola "Coco" Campolongo, who was killed in the town along with his grandfather in an organised crime attack last January. Francis comforted the boy's father during a meeting a Vatican spokesman called highly emotional.
The boy's parents and grandfather were part of a drugs trafficking clan of the 'Ndrangheta.