Italian police raid a mafia house in the southern city of Lecce Italian police raid a mafia house in the southern city of Lecce  (ANSA)

Pope: ‘Organized crime damages visible and invisible victims’

Pope Francis sends a letter to an anti-mafia association visiting Argentina, and calls for international cooperation against organized crime gangs to protect society and individuals.

By Vatican News staff reporter

"Organized crime leads to social damage on a large scale: it generates visible and invisible victims, who endure suffering that must be heard and compensated; it also requires society as a whole to fight back against the constructs that are often rooted in the collective unconscious, and which lead to its proliferation."

Pope Francis offered that condemnation of organized crime in a letter sent to a delegation from the “Libera Association” which visited Argentina this week to promote the Bien Restituido (“Returned Good”) project.

The Pope’s message was sent on 25 March and read out by the association’s founder—Fr. Luigi Ciotti—on Wednesday at the Faculty of Law of the University of Buenos Aires.

The delegation was in Argentina as part of a congress hosted in collaboration with the European Union and entitled “Social reuse of goods confiscated from organized crime: an opportunity for society and the State.”

Borderless lawlessness

Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for the conference and for the collaboration between Italy, the European Union, and Argentina to fight mafia groups.

Mutual collaboration, he said, is “essential to overcome this type of illegal association, which knows no borders and takes advantage of conflicts between peoples and the dysfunction of institutions."

Working for the common good, he added, “requires common practices of coordination and collaboration capable of addressing reality in its complexity."

Two-pronged approach to criminal justice

The Pope also noted that criminal justice systems typically address only half of the problem related to organized crime.

“Judicial and procedural action against this type of criminality is usually focused on the level of repression and punishment, but this is a limited perspective which always stops halfway through. It is difficult to think about the conclusion of a criminal proceeding without the provision of reparation and even a reparation that includes the causes.”

Italy, noted Pope Francis, has experienced much suffering due to its history of organized crime, but can also offer much in the way of example on how to deal with confiscated mafia properties in order to benefit society.

“The reuse of property confiscated from the Mafia for society’s benefit,” he said, “is a virtuous example of restoration and peacemaking through collective action.”

Proper role of State in justice and reparation

The Pope went on to say that the State has a chance to care better for its citizens by creating more job opportunities, since “organized crime typically occupies spaces where institutions are absent or dysfunctional.”

The State, he said, should “assume its responsibilities and recognize its failures, because a State that looks only to itself becomes confused and lost."

Pope Francis concluded his letter to the Libera Association with an encouragement for associations to work together to “seek practical solutions to help repair the damage organized crime causes to society.”

“It is my hope that in this way justice will fill its proper role, and that, as I once said at a Libera meeting, justice will take root and occupy the space that is otherwise occupied by injustice.”

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09 April 2022, 09:51