Speaking after the Angelus prayer, the Pope recalled condemnations of the mafia by his predecessors, Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
“St. John Paul II denounced their culture of death and Benedict XVI condemned them as a road of death,” he said, and described them as “organizations of sin” that are contrary to the Gospel of Christ.
“They exchange faith for idolatry,” the Pope said and invited the faithful to remember all the victims of mafia organizations and to renew a commitment against these criminal organizations.
Pope St. John Paul II
St. John Paul II issued what was internationally acclaimed as a "prophetic invective" against mafia mobsters during a visit to Agrigento in Sicily on 9 May 1993. In his off-the-cuff remarks at the end of Mass, he demanded ‘Mafiosi’ convert, change their ways or face the wrath of God's final judgment.
Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI condemned Italy's "ferocious" 'Ndrangheta mafia” during a visit to the group's heartland in the southern region of Calabria on 9 October 2011.
Addressing 40,000 people at a disused industrial site in Lamezia Terme, the Pope said the crime families in Calabria were "tearing at the social fabric" in a region "which seems to be in a constant state of emergency".
During a visit to the Sicilian city of Palermo the previous year, Pope Benedict called the mafia "a road of death, incompatible with the Gospel".
Established in 2016, Italy’s National Day of Remembrance and Commitment to Remembering the Victims of the Mafia takes place on 21 March every year.
Italy's Associazione Libera, a national anti-mafia organization, had been using this date to commemorate victims of mafia crimes since 1996. When it was established as an institutional observance, Libera’s president described the move as “an important recognition” of the continuing fight against mafia extortion and violence.