IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Mafia Members Are 'Excommunicated', Pope Francis Says

Pope Francis visited a southern Italian town that is overrun by the mafia, and where a 3-year-old was killed in an alleged mob related battle.
Pope Francis delivers his homily during as he celebrates mass in Sibari, in the southern Italian region of Calabria at the end of his one-day visit in the city, on June 21, 2014. Pope Francis launched a scathing attack on the mafia Sunday during a trip to the heartland of one of the most feared syndicates, and said no more children should die at the hands of organised crime. VINCENZO PINTO / AFP - Getty Images

Pope Francis delivered a condemning message to Italy’s most powerful Mafia affiliation on Saturday, calling it an example of "the adoration of evil" and saying Mafiosi "are excommunicated."

Sign up for breaking news alerts from NBC News

"This evil must be fought against, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it,” the pope told a crowd, gathered at a mass in Cassano all'Ionio, a southern Italian town overrun by the ‘Ndrangheta Mafia.

"Those who, in their lives, follow this path of evil, as mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated," Pope Francis said in unprepared comments at a mass before tens of thousands of people. His planned comments included allusions to the evils of abusing money and power, but did not reference the Mafia directly.

Before the mass, the pope visited the imprisoned father of a 3-year-old child, who was found dead in a scorched car in January. The ‘Ndrangheta allegedly killed the toddler and two men in retribution for an unpaid drug debt.

"This evil must be fought against, it must be pushed aside. We must say no to it," Pope Francis said during the mass.

Earlier, the pontiff warned local priests to avoid individualism, ego and idol, “which unfortunately are widespread in our diocese.”

Some priests in the area have been investigated for 'Ndrangheta involvement, allowing the mafia affiliate to contribute money for building churches and organizing processions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Pope Francis vowed that the church would devote comprehensive efforts to combat organized crime.

— Elisha Fieldstadt, with Reuters