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In Mob Stronghold, Pope Says Mobsters Are Excommunicated

Pope Francis delivers his homily as he celebrates mass in Sibari, in the southern Italian region of Calabria on Saturday. Vincenzo Pinto /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Vincenzo Pinto /AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis delivers his homily as he celebrates mass in Sibari, in the southern Italian region of Calabria on Saturday.

Vincenzo Pinto /AFP/Getty Images

Pope Francis traveled to the heart of a mafia stronghold in Italy on Saturday and told mobsters that they are not part of the church.

"Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God," he warned them during an open-air mass. "They are excommunicated."

As USA Today reports, Francis made the trip after ignoring worries about his health and safety. The paper adds:

"He traveled by helicopter to Cassano all'Ionio, around 275 miles southeast of Rome. The town earned headlines in January, when 3-year-old Nicola 'Coco' Campolongo and his grandfather were hit by stray bullets and killed during a shootout involving the 'Ndrangheta — the organized crime organization that exercises a commanding influence in Calabria, the area at the toe of Italy's boot-shaped peninsula.

"Local organizers of the pope's one-day pilgrimage said the pontiff first spoke to about 200 men and women held in the prison in the town of Castrovillari. He then spoke separately with the father and two grandmothers of 'Coco' Campolongo.

"A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said Francis told the father: 'May children never again have to suffer in this way.' "

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Francis, the BBC reports, condemned the mafia for its "adoration of evil and contempt of the common good."

The BBC adds that the 'Ndrangheta network, based in the "toe" of Italy, controls the country's cocaine trade.