Is the Italian Mob Trying to Assassinate Pope Francis?

Despite the fact that millions of people consider the Catholic Church to be its own crime syndicate, Pope Francis is now under a threat from actual gangsters — the kind with guns.

So claims Italian prosecutor Nicola Gratteri via the Washington Post. The mafia crime cartel that may have its sights trained on the pointiff is known as the ‘Ndrangheta.

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.

Somewhat letting the air out of the story is the fact that the threats appear to be, so far, entirely in Gratteri’s head.

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.

The threats, if any, are the result of the Catholic Church’s longtime entanglement with Italy’s gangsterdom.

“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.”

What could save the Pope? Maybe this:

[Gratteri] 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.

With any luck, the thought of killing the mild-mannered representative of God on Earth won’t sit well with pious ‘Ndrangheta hitmen. I hope assassin and target have a pray-off instead.

(Image via Philip Chidell /

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.