Brushing aside worries about his health and safety, Pope Francis traveled to the heart of mob territory Saturday to comfort the family of a 3-year-old boy gunned down in a January shootout and declared that all mobsters are automatically excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.
The underdeveloped Calabria region that the pope visited is the power base of the `Ndrangheta, a global drug-trafficking syndicate that enriches itself by extorting businesses and infiltrating public-works contracts.
During his homily at an outdoor Mass, Francis denounced the `Ndrangheta for what he called its "adoration of evil and contempt for the common good."
"Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated," he warned.
Francis turned his attention to Italy after a period of focusing on international issues — including war-torn Syria, a trip to the Holy Land, Vatican visits from the leaders of Israel and Palestine, plus a recent visit from President Obama.