(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis gathered to pray with the families whose loved ones were killed by mafia violence and entreated mafia members to convert and change their lives. The Pope made this appeal on Friday evening at St Gregory VII Church in Rome at a prayer vigil, organized by the Libera Foundation.
Pope Francis listened quietly, his head hung low, his hands clasped in prayer, as the 842 names of victims of mafia violence, including 80 children, were read one by one.
During the moving and prayerful vigil, the Pope expressed his empathy, sympathy and solidarity with 700 people present, whose loved ones were killed by the mafia.
He lauded them for their witness, their courage to share their suffering with others and their hope that corruption will be overcome.
And then stern words to the men and women currently involved in the mafia: “And I feel that I cannot conclude without saying a word to... the protagonists who are absent today -- the men and women Mafiosi.
"Please change your lives, convert yourselves, stop perpetrating evil,” he said to applause.
“And we pray for you. I ask this on my knees. It is for your good,” he entreated.“This life that you live now will not give us pleasure; it will not give us joy. It will not give you happiness. The power and money that you have now from many dirty dealings, from many mafia crimes – blood money, power gained with blood – you cannot bring them with you to the next life,” the Pope continued.
“Convert yourselves. You still have time so as not to end up in hell. And that is what is waiting for you if you continue on this path,” he said. “You have a father and a mother. Think of them. Cry a little and convert yourselves.”
He concluded his remarks, leading the assembly in a Hail Mary, followed by the Lord’s Prayer.
The prayer vigil came one day ahead of the 19th Day of Memory and Commitment in remembrance of the innocent victims of organized crime. On Saturday, hundreds are expected to march in Latina, a city south of Rome, and then participate in workshop on how civil society can better organize to bring an end to corruption.
Report by Laura Ieraci
Text from Vatican Radio website