Pope Francis denounces pandemic profiteers

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Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass behind closed doors in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican, Sunday, April 5, 2020, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (AP Photo/pool/Alberto Pizzoli)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is denouncing the mafia and all those who are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to make money.

Francis opened his morning Mass on Wednesday by praying that “all those who profit off the needs of others, and sell them” experience spiritual conversion.

Francis’ homily was dedicated to the biblical story of Judas betraying Jesus — a narrative Christians commemorate this week in the run-up to liturgical services marking Christ’s Last Supper, crucifixion and resurrection on Easter.

In his remarks, Francis said everyone has a “little Judas inside of us” who makes a choice between loyalty to others or self-interest. He said: “Each one of us has the capacity to betray, to sell others, to choose our own interests.”

Speaking of mobsters and money lenders, he said: “May the Lord touch their hearts and convert them.”

Italian officials have warned that organized crime groups are maneuvering to profit off the social and economic disruptions caused by Italy’s virus-induced nationwide shutdown.

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(This story was originally published on April 8, 2020)

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