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 and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • busterggi

    The Mafia, like the Republican party, is notoriously conservative.

  • Richard Wade

    It might be unfair, but having watched the rogue Italian prosecutor in the Amanda Knox case make shit up and pursue a flimsy case just to promote himself with notoriety, I can’t but suspect that another Italian prosecutor might be making shit up just to promote himself with notoriety.

    • Mario Strada

      Just like here, you get a lot of good and bad prosecutors (Magistrato = District Attorney) . The Amanda Knox dude was crazy even by Italian Standards.

      Also, this guy has been living under protection from the Mafia. I don’t think it is possible for average Americans to understand what kind of life that is.

      A friend of mine was the Son of a Magistrate. They has a military style troop carrier with guns in their driveway. The kids had 4 bodyguards each with usually a 2 or 3 car convoy just to go to school.

      Back in the 90′s one of the top magistrates was so well protected that the Mafia blew up an entire city block just to get to him.

      From the sound of it, this guy is either not married or his family is not mentioned in his Wikipidia entry. Either because there is nobody or he no longer lives with them. That’s what my friend’s father had to do eventually. The family moved in the north of italy someplace and he kept living in his condo in Rome.

      By the way, he was prosecuting the Red Brigades, not the ‘Ndrangheta. Nasty as the Brigate Rosse were, the ‘Ndrangheta makes them look like a bunch of fucking nuns on a mission to Calcutta. At least the BR wanted to score political points, so often they were more clement. The ‘Ndrangheta just wants you gone and they don’t care how.

  • b s

    “…most Italian mobsters are practicing Catholics, despite their violent activities.”

    So, the life of the pope may well depend on christians actually obeying the word of god.

    He’s boned.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    So when the rest of the bishops have had enough of the pope’s rabid liberal views and decide to remove him, they now have an organisation to point to as the one that killed him. Did not see that coming…

  • Compuholic

    With the information presented so far: I don’t buy it. Why would be mob be so stupid and turn so much attention to their activities? And what could they possibly have to gain from this. I would assume that criminals mostly want to fly under the radar. And unless the pope has done something to really piss them off badly, I have a hard time imagining that they would pull a stunt like that.

    • Pseudonym

      It’d be the surest way to gain a promotion from “organised crime gang” to “terrorist organisation”.

  • Mario Strada

    After reading a few Italian newspapers, it seems to be news of the variety one usually pull out of their own ass.

    The Italian press seems to be mentioning the fact with little concern and the pope himself seems to be less than worried.

    He just visited the Italian president (if I am correct, this guy was a resistance leader against the Nazis, to tell you how old he is) and left in his Ford Focus without much of an escort.

    Sure, the ‘Ndrangheta is a bunch of dangerous psychopaths with equals, maybe, only in the russian mafia, and they would have good reasons to do away with him given he is cleaning house at the Vatican banks. But I doubt they are going to seriously follow through. They also have mothers, uncles, etc. all of whom are often devout catholics.

    One scenario would be that someone commits the deed and the ‘Ndrangheta then repudiates it, by killing the killers. They have done that before, but we are in the realm of pure speculation here.

    • Hibernia86

      How do they get the killer to agree to do it? Won’t the killer be Catholic and thus not want to kill the Pope? And besides, won’t he see the past history of the Mafia killing off killers after they are done with him?

  • Sven2547
    • Itarion

      That was the old pope. I don’t think this pope is doing so much hiding behind inch thick science, I mean faith, I mean bulletproof glass.

  • kusmeek

    …2…1…PRAY! lol

  • LesterBallard

    “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”

  • joe

    wow. I knew Francis was a PR-savvy pope, but this little twist is interesting!
    Now the Pope is subtly prevailing on people’s innate mercy by casting himself as a target of “cartoon monsters” (who DOESN’T disapprove of “gangsters”?)

    the Church must be really, really desperate to distract the public’s attention away from their multitude of crimes,…….

    • pete084

      Make out you’re the victim to draw attention away from your own crimes. Standard criminal behaviour.