Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis on Monday blasted the "money stained with blood" and "evil power" wielded by Italian organised crime as he met the heads of the country's anti-mafia squad.
"I beseech God, just and merciful, to touch the hearts of the men and women in the various mafia organisations, so that they stop, cease doing evil, change paths and adopt a different life," Francis said.
"The money from the mafia's dirty business and crimes is money stained with blood, which leads to an evil power."
He added: "The mafia phenomenon, which is the expression of a culture of death, must be resisted and fought."
Francis praised the officials for their "difficult and dangerous" fight against organised crime, and noted the burden that their job caused for their families.
"Society has to be cleansed of corruption, extortion, illegal drugs and arms smuggling, of the trafficking of human beings, so many of whom are children reduced to slavery."
In March 2015, on a trip to Naples -- a blackspot for organised crime -- the pope set down a marker of his hatred of the mafia, condemning it for its "stinking" corruption, especially of the young and poor.