by Philip Pullella, Reuters
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday urged people to fight organised crime groups such as the mafia around the world, warning that the criminals were using the COVID-19 pandemic to further enrich themselves.
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.
“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.
Italian police say crime clans are using the pandemic to buy favour with poor families facing financial ruin, offering loans and food. Mob loan sharks demanding exorbitant interest rates are bailing out businesses hit by the pandemic, police say.
“These structures of sin, mafia structures, are against the gospel and mistake idolatry for faith,” the pope added.
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.
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