This coming Friday Pope Francis is slated to preside over a prayer vigil for victims of mafia violence and their families, which takes place the night before the national day commemorating the lives lost. “For the families of innocent victims, this meeting with the Pope is a gift,” Fr. Luigi Ciotti expressed in a March 15 article on Vatican Radio. “The availability of the Pope to accompany these family members in this moment, laden with suffering but also marked by hope, is a sign of attention and sensitivity, which they seized from the first moment.” Fr. Ciotti, an Italian priest from the Archdiocese of Turin, is president of the Libera Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to fighting organized crime across Italy, and is hosting the March 21 prayer vigil. Set to take place in Rome at the Church of Saint Gregory VII, the event is expected to draw close to 700 family members of mafia victims from all across Italy, who represent the near 15,000 who have suffered the loss of a loved one due to mafia violence. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., the vigil will conclude at 7 p.m. and takes place the evening before the national memorial day commemorating the innocent victims, Vatican Radio reports. Referring to the Pope’s presence as “an attention to our fragile and wounded humanity,” Fr. Ciotti noted that it is “also attention to the specific issue of the mafia, of corruption, of the many forms of injustice that deny human rights.” Founded in 1995 with the goal of encouraging society to fight against organized crime and to promote justice, the Libera Foundation, meaning “free,” is compiled of more than 1500 organizations, groups, and schools who are committed to building a political and cultural dynamic that promotes the sense of lawfulness within society. According to the Transcrime research center, the mafia has its strongest presence in the North-Western and central regions of Italy, and is responsible for the majority of the illegal activity in the country, the most important of which include sexual exploitation, firearms trafficking, drugs, counterfeiting, gambling, illegal waste trafficking, illegal tobacco trafficking, usury and extortion. Transcrime estimates that combined together, mafia activities generate a turnover of between 24 to over 46 billion dollars, with an average equivalent to 1.7% of the country’s national GDP. With the main illegal activities being involvement with drugs, extortions, sexual exploitation and counterfeiting, Transcrime estimates that the annual mafia revenue falls between a minimum of 11.5 — 18 billion dollars.
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