A wire-tapped prison conversation between mafia godfathers reveals unexpectedly high regard for Pope Francis. The praise for the South American pontiff has emerged from a secretly-taped conversation between two mafia bosses, both of them behind bars.
Toto "The Beast" Riina, the "boss of bosses" of Sicily's Cosa Nostra, and Alberto Lorusso of Sacra Corona Unita, the mafia organisation based in the southern region of Puglia, were discussing warnings issued by a prominent anti-mob prosecutor, who said the Pope could be at risk from the mafia.
Nicola Gratteri, who has lived under police protection for nearly 25 years, said in a November newspaper interview that the Pope's campaign to tackle graft was upsetting powerful crime organisations in Italy, which have in the past enjoyed a cosy relationship with the Catholic hierarchy. Lorusso dismissed Gratteri's stark warning as "propaganda" designed to harm the mafia. Riina enthusiastically agreed, adding: "This Pope is a good guy, he's really great."
Since his election, Pope Francis has won plaudits for his fresh approach and down-to-earth message, and now has more than 11 million followers on Twitter, but even he might be surprised to be so well regarded by mafia godfathers. The praise for the Pope, who was elected last March by his fellow cardinals, was the only positive remark made by Riina, who is serving life in jail.
In other conversations wiretapped by police, he made threats against anti-mafia prosecutors and gloated over murders carried out by Cosa Nostra in the past. Riina threatened to launch attacks against judges that would make them "dance the samba" - an apparent reference to Cosa Nostra's past tactic of blowing up prosecutors with massive car bombs.