"During his 20 years as pastor in a town on the outskirts of Turin, many paintings, statues, furniture and other objects have been lost and then found in private homes."
Half a dozen men stand nonchalantly in front of a grubby building on one of Rome's busiest streets as cars whizz past. They stiffen whenever a stranger approaches.
But few would guess they're undercover cops protecting Italy's most endangered man.
Inside is Fr. Luigi Ciotti, a 69-year-old priest with soft brown eyes and silver hair who has spent the past 20 years fighting the Italian Mafia.
NCR Today: Synod coverage continues; Supreme Court passes on same-sex marriage debate; racism abounds in South Korea; Mexican nuns sent to North Dakota.
Pope Francis "strongly desired that [the villas] be opened as a sign of sharing something unique, a common good."
As the Catholic church wrestles with changing community attitudes on key social issues, a new Italian survey finds more support for abortion, gay rights and euthanasia than for cosmetic surgery.
According to the survey published in the daily La Stampa this week, 61 percent of Italians support abortion and 76 percent believe they should be able to request the right to die.
Being Christian is putting God first in one's life, which means having "the courage to say no to evil, violence and exploitation," said Pope Francis, visiting another southern Italian town scarred by mafia crime.
Pope Francis sought forgiveness for decades of persecution of Italian Pentecostals when he met with around 300 evangelicals from the U.S., Argentina and Italy in the southern town of Caserta on Monday.
The pope made his second visit in as many days to the Mafia stronghold near Naples, this time to meet evangelical pastor Giovanni Traettino, whom he befriended while he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
It began with the death of an innocent 3-year-old boy who burned to death in his grandfather's car in a Mafia ambush in January. Pope Francis was so shaken by the death of Nicola "Coco" Campolongo that he spoke out against the ferocity of the crime and those behind it.
But he didn't stop there. In June, the outspoken pontiff traveled to the southern Italian town where the murder took place and accused Mafia members of pursuing the "adoration of evil." Then he went one step further.
Only two weeks after Pope Francis announced he was excommunicating the Mafia, a religious procession in southern Italy has provoked uproar after paying homage to a convicted mobster.
Catholic bishops condemned the detour of the traditional procession, which carried a statue of the Madonna past the house of 82-year-old Peppe Mazzagatti, a Mafia boss serving a life sentence under house arrest.
Pope Francis is finding the that the stiffest resistance to his reform agenda is coming from his own backyard: the Italian hierarchy and their media camp followers.