Pope urges fight against organized crime

Pope Francis is urging people around the world to fight organized crime groups such as the mafia, warning that the criminals are using the coronavirus pandemic to gain wealth.

"Today Italy marks the day of memory and commitment to remember the innocent victims of mafias. Mafias are present in various parts of the world and, taking advantage of the pandemic, they are enriching themselves through corruption."

Last December, Interpol issued a global alert warning that criminal networks were targeting COVID-19 vaccines.

Italian police say crime clans are also using the pandemic to buy favor with poor families facing financial ruin, offering them loans and food.

Police say mob loan sharks demanding exorbitant interest rates are bailing out businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

In Italy, many members of organized crime see themselves as part of a religious, cult-like group, invoking the help of saints, and using religious figurines or statues in initiation rites.