Pope Francis urged the citizens of a Roman suburb ruled by the Mafia to forsake the criminal code of silence called Omerta and help police.
Francis gave the exhortation during a Sunday evening mass that he led for the seaside town of Ostia, according to The Associated Press. He urged citizens to stand on the side of law and to forsake the traditional Italian code of Omerta by speaking with police and denouncing crime lords and others associated with organized crime. He exhorted them to “knock down” the barriers of social codes like Omerta.
Francis urged citizens to embrace “justice, decorum and lawfulness,” and decried arrogance and abuses of power.
The law of Omerta originated with the Sicilian mafia, who rose to power during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is defined as “the obligation never, under any circumstances, to apply for justice to the legal authorities and never to assist in any way in the detection of crimes committed against oneself or others.” The word itself is derived from umiltà, which means humility and implies submission.
The Italian government assumed direct control of the municipality of Ostia in 2015 to wrest it from the control of local Mafia clans who had infiltrated the local government. Mafia members have threatened journalists who cover their activities in the area. Authorities also claim that the mafia in Ostia are responsible for drug trafficking, loan-sharking, murders, and extortion.
In the face of all this, Francis urged the citizens of Ostia to reject “fear and oppression.”
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