Nicola Gratteri, 55, a state prosecutor in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where the 'Ndrangheta is most active, said the pope's effort to reform the church is making the 'Ndrangheta "very nervous."

Prosecutor warns of a mob threat against Pope Francis

ROME (RNS) Pope Francis could be at risk from the 'Ndrangheta organized crime organization, according to a leading anti-mob prosecutor who has himself been the target of threats from the mafia.

Nicola Gratteri, 55, a state prosecutor in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where the 'Ndrangheta is most active, said the pope's effort to reform the church is making the 'Ndrangheta "very nervous."

Nicola Gratteri, 55, a state prosecutor in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where the 'Ndrangheta is most active, said the pope's effort to reform the church is making the 'Ndrangheta "very nervous."

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Nicola Gratteri, 55, a state prosecutor in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where the 'Ndrangheta is most active, said the pope's effort to reform the church is making the 'Ndrangheta "very nervous."

The organization is considered by experts in Italy to be the most dangerous, most unified and most difficult to penetrate mafia-type organization in the country.

"I cannot say if the organization is in a position to do something like this, but they are dangerous and it is worth reflecting on," Gratteri warned. "If the godfathers can find a way to stop him, they will seriously consider it.

"Those who have up until now profited from the influence and wealth drawn from the church are getting very nervous," he added. "For many years, the mafia has laundered money and made investments with the complicity of the church. But now the pope is dismantling the poles of economic power in the Vatican, and that is dangerous."

Gratteri noted that in southern Italy organized crime figures have strong and high-profile relationships with local church leaders, who help give the crime figures legitimacy.

He also said most Italian mobsters are practicing Catholics, despite their violent activities.

"A gunman from the 'Ndrangheta will pray and kiss his rosary before shooting someone," said Gratteri, who has been under police protection against the mob since the 1980s.

Gratteri was named by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta to head a special committee aimed at curbing the influence of organized crime.

Francis has spoken out strongly against organized crime in the past, specifically naming the country's four main organized crime groups --including the 'Ndrangheta -- in May.

On Monday (Nov. 11), Francis spoke out against corruption, quoting Jesus from the Gospel of St. Luke: "It would be better for (the corrupt man) if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea."

Security issues have been an area of concern since the early days of Francis' papacy because of his willingness to break protocol to engage with the faithful.



  1. Sadly, if this is true..the end result does not look good. Popes have been persecuted from the very inception of the Church with most of the earliest Popes paying the ultimate price. In this case though not directly by the state government, organized crime appears to still have a significant foothold in Italy and particularly in the south. Lets hope and pray this is not the case . But with the Pope’s dis-concern for security protocols the situation appears possible. I hope those mafioso’s hear Christ’s words in the authentic charity displayed by Pope Francis and repent from their earthly ways.

  2. Francis spoke out against corruption, quoting Jesus from the Gospel of St. Luke: “It would be better for (the corrupt man) if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea.” As a Catholic, I am concerned for the Pope’s life to be protected. As a physician, I wonder if Pope Francis will address the sexual abuse of innocent children by his clergy, since that is really what Jesus was talking about in the above quote from Luke 17:2 where it says: “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck THAN FOR HIM TO CAUSE ONE OF THESE LITTLE ONES TO SIN”?

  3. we shall continue praying for our holy father’s safety. No evil shall befall him.

  4. Have you not been reading the newspapers? Pope Francis has addressed the sexual exploitation of children by clergy on a number of occasions.

  5. Where is the evidence for this? At this point it sounds like pure speculation, as Mr. Gratteri himself implies. If so, it seems a bit irresponsible to me to be raising these concerns in a public forum.

    The Holy Father is ever a target for those who oppose his policies and initiatives. Pope John Paul II was the target of at least two nearly successful assassination attempts. Pope Benedict was depicted as shot-through with bullets by a supposedly respected Australian artist, and the target of a ridiculous campaign to have him arrested on his trip to England for supposed crimes against humanity. If the mafia want to kill him, there’s probably little that can be done to stop them, especially since so many clerics cover for them.

  6. Everyone of us should pray blessings upon Pope Francis for he is doing a great blessing upon the heads of all the peoples of the earth. He has so much love and ability to reach out to all of Europe and all of the Western Hemisphere like no other head of this church as before him. He touches the heart of all the Italians and Europeans as well as all of the community of Latin America and all the populations of immigrants and migrants from there throughout the whole world, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish people alike. I know for one he brings unity to the Italian nationals as well as Italian citizens in Europe as much as he does to those of the Americas. So we need to bless him in our prayers besides all of the things that may have been done in the past that do not reflect upon our as befitting our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ from within this church by those who have done acts of unkindness. The world is changing to accepting values of kindness and respect over those of unrighteous dominion and destruction. This church still has values to withstand the evils of the day in which we live by the good heart and this what Pope Francis stands by needs our support. Good will march on and on.

  7. Pope Francis has done nothing to make the predators nor their complicit superiors, bishops, and cardinals accountable to civil law. Nor has the Pope removed any sexual predators from the priesthood. Talk is cheap. Action is needed to protect innocent children from sexual abuse by clergy.

  8. Oh, this is just bunk. Take an article on threats to the life of the pope and turn it into an ill-informed attack on the pope for his supposed inadequate response to child abuse by priests.

    First of all, the pope doesn’t need to do anything to make anyone accountable to civil law. That’s the job of civil authorities (which have done a pretty poor job of it). Second, and this may disappoint you, but even priests accused of abuse have rights. Francis has been pope seven months. Removing a priest is a process, and it doesn’t always directly involve the pope, in spite of the stereotype that he runs everything in every corner of the world.

    Pope John Paul II and the US bishops initiated reforms in the Church in the US that have reduced the number of credible accusations from hundreds a year in the mid-70’s to an average of 6 or 7 a year over the last decade. Perfect? No. Progress. Of course. Has any other institution (like, say the AMA), adopted reforms that have been so successful. The Church is probably the safest place for kids today.

    Abuse by physicians, on the other hand, is a problem that has gone largely unreported and unaddressed. I’m sure you’ve done all you can to eradicate it. Or has your own response been inadequate?

  9. I worry for Pope Francis’ safety. Isn’t it rumored that the mafia murdered JP 1 ? I’m glad Francis is living in the Casa Santa Marta rather than alone in the Papal apartments. I’ve always wondered if this was, in part, why he chose these living arrangements. He doesn’t see, to be a naive person

  10. The prestige that the Church has right now has been declining throughout the years. It is no longer a secret that members of the Church have collaborated with mafias. Corruption has penetrated the highest spheres of the Vatican and Pope Francis should be fearing for his life. The Catholic system is so collapsed that anyone willing to change it will have to fight among their own people. Members of the Church will back up the mafias. It is not clear why certain priests instead of fighting against the mafias they back them up. It could be fear or greedy but in any case this is an unacceptable behavior. Pope Francis is doing what all priests are supposed to do. Unfortunately for him, corruption is embedded in every institution and priests will keep supporting and standing on the villain’s side.

  11. I do too! I was 3rd gen Mormon for about 50 years of my life, but my parents died so I was able to quietly leave. I cannot imagine a life not lived in service as a part of a worship group, so I’ve been very interested in this new Pope. I was so touched by what he did with the over 600 disabled people in wheelchairs, and how he counseled us to love those who are gay. If I were to define what I look for in religion it would be love and tolerance, the kind that the Christ I have come to know showed.

    Christ is not my brother, as the LDS doctrine teaches, nor will the man I was married to for 28 years ever be a God, and I have no idea why God would feel a need to withhold ‘His one true Church’ from the world until now. I also have a great deal of trouble with a man getting a book out of a hat by looking at a stone and calling it holy scripture. Particularly when he had been charged with conning people out of money in the exact same way and was arrested for it.

    I have been spending quite a bit of time at Mass and talking with Catholic family members of my new husband, and I find the beauty and spirit in the churches to be very comfortable. Who knows, maybe I have found what I was missing.

  12. Take notice that Pope Francis is confronting the ‘Ndrangheta (The Calabrian mob), not the Sicilian Mafia (kind of like comparing a bobcat to a tiger). He is wisely starting with a smaller problem to see what happens.

    Clearly a step in the right direction, but the ‘Ndrangheta bosses (and the Italian general public) won’t believe it until they see an announcement of a Papal Bull of excommunication, or the Bull itself, posted or sent out to the miscreants affected by it. Then there is the problem of entrenched attitudes of local clergy (what ‘Ndrangheta boss doesn’t have a brother, cousin, uncle, or son who is a Priest, Bishop, Archbishop, or even a Cardinal) who would resist enforcing it.

    If this Pope wants to tackle a bigger (but less dangerous) problem; he needs to send out Papal Bulls of Excommunication to Catholic politicians in America who consistently vote in favor of pro-abortion legislation, or help to implement it. Like the situation above, this one also sends out bad messages that political power buys Church silence.

    In both cases, Excommunication is supposed to be a “medicinal punishment”; let’s see how it works.

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