National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

Luigi Ciotti

Italian priest, unfazed by death threats, goes after the Mafia

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.

Priests on front line in Italy's battle against Mafias

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Pope Francis' dramatic appearance at a March prayer vigil with the families of Mafia victims, where he said he would plead on bended knee with Mafia bosses to "stop doing evil," has highlighted the Catholic church's role in combatting Italian organized crime.

"Pope Francis awakens consciences. Many who were a long way from the church are now asking to be baptized," said Fr. Luigi Ciotti, founder of the Italian anti-Mafia association Libera, which organized the March 21 vigil in Rome. "The pope brings a moral renewal that touches everyone. Every day I see the results."

Pope to Mafiosi: Turn away now from the road to hell

Surrounded by survivors of innocent people killed by the Mafia, Pope Francis made an emotional appeal to Italian gangsters to give up their lives of crime and avoid eternal damnation.

"Men and women of the Mafia, please change your lives, convert, stop doing evil," the pope said at a prayer vigil Friday. "I ask on my knees and for your own good.

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August 28-September 10, 2015

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