WATCH ABOVE: Pope Francis excommunicates Italian mafia after visiting the southern region of Calabria, Italy.
VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis is urging Christians to work together to abolish every form of torture, condemning the practice as a grave sin.
Francis told the public in St. Peter’s Square Sunday he wanted to reiterate his “firm condemnation of every kind of torture.” He sought united efforts to work for torture’s end and to support victims and their families.
Francis said it was a “mortal sin, a very grave sin, to torture people” and noted that Thursday marks the United Nation’s day for torture victims.
Torture was a powerful tool of the military regime ruling his native Argentina from 1976 till 1983. The local church hierarchy then openly sided with the junta.
Francis has been credited with saving lives of political dissidents while a Jesuit priest in Argentina.
On Saturday Pope Francis journeyed to the heart of Italy’s biggest crime syndicate, met the father of a 3-year-old boy slain in the region’s drug war, and declared that all mobsters are automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
During his one-day pilgrimage to the southern region of Calabria, Francis comforted the imprisoned father of Nicola Campolongo in the courtyard of a prison in the town of Castrovillari.
In January the boy was shot, along with one of his grandfathers and the grandfather’s girlfriend, in an attack blamed on drug turf wars in the nearby town of Cassano all’Jonio. The attackers torched the car with all three victims inside.
The boy’s father and mother already were in jail at the time on drug trafficking charges. The pope had expressed his horror following the attack and promised to visit the town.
Francis embraced the man. He asked the pope to pray for the boy’s mother, who was permitted to leave prison following her son’s slaying and remains under house arrest. The pope also met two of the boy’s grandmothers.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said Francis told the father: “May children never again have to suffer in this way.”
“The two grandmothers were weeping like fountains,” Benedettini added.
Calabria is the power base of the ‘ndrangheta, a global drug trafficking syndicate that enriches itself by extorting businesses and infiltrating public works contracts in underdeveloped Calabria.
During his homily at an outdoor Mass, Francis denounced the ‘ndrangheta for what he called its “adoration of evil and contempt for the common good. ”
“Those who go down the evil path, as the Mafiosi do, are not in communion with God. They are excommunicated,” he warned.
Francis greeted about 200 other prisoners during his visit there.
© The Canadian Press, 2014