Pope Francis to Hold Vigil with Victims of Mafia Violence

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Pope Francis was set to hold a vigil with representatives of the thousands who have lost loved ones at the hands of the Mafia on Friday.

According to Libera, an organization that battles organized crime, some 700 families representing 15,000 people will gather with the pontiff in Rome at 4:25 p.m. (11:25 a.m. ET).

While Italy has long battled the Mafia's influence, recent mob hits have shocked the country. The January slaying of Nicola “Coco” Campolongo, a 3-year-old who was shot dead and burned virtually beyond recognition, sparked nationwide outrage.

Recent investigations also underline how traditional crime groups - such as Sicily's Cosa Nostra, Calabria's 'Ndrangheta and the Naples Camorra - have increased their influence in the capital.

In January, police arrested 90 people for their roles in investing criminal proceeds in 27 coffee bars and pizzerias in Rome.

And in the first two months of 2014, officials seized 350 million euros ($482.5 million) in assets from suspected organized crime networks, compared with 560 million euros in all of last year, General Ivano Maccani of the finance police told Reuters.

F. Brinley Bruton of NBC News and Reuters contributed to this report.