It is a “deviant spirituality” against which Pope Francis has been fighting for many years, writes the portal of the “Slate” magazine in the French edition.

It all started in July 2014, when members of the ‘Ndrangheta, the famous Calabrian mafia, organized a religious procession at Oppido Mamertina. Arriving in front of the house of Giuseppe Mazzagatti, one of the local chiefs of the ‘Ndrangheta, the procession bowed before a giant statue with the effigy of the Virgin Mary, as a sign of recognition and loyalty to the mafia.

This moment sparked a scandal all the time, and the bishop of the diocese of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi banned religious processions in the commune of Calabria.

A few months later, Pope Francis reacted by publicly condemning the Calabrian mafia. “Ndrangheta is the worship of evil and contempt for the common good. They are excommunicated, “the Sovereign Pontiff said.

If the canonical punishment was not enough to discourage the mafia from using the symbol of the Virgin Mary as a link of piety, the Vatican decided to tighten its response, recently launching a theological counter-offensive. With the support of the pope, the International Pontifical Marian Academy (PAMI), a specific institute dedicated to mariology, has opened a new department entitled “The liberation of Mary from the mafia and criminal forces.”

The purpose of the initiative, says Father Stefano Cecchin, president of the Academy, is to make heard “the true theology of Mary”, so that the faithful can distinguish acts of worship from the simulacra of piety organized by the mafia or corrupt authorities.

“May the many devotees of the Virgin adopt attitudes that exclude a wrong religiosity and rather respond to a religiosity understood and lived correctly. It is necessary that the style of the manifestations dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary be in accordance with the messages of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church “, Pope Francis underlined in a letter meant to approve the approach.

The cult of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which inspires many spectacular processions in Italy, has long been integrated into popular Catholic culture. By adopting it, the mafia is trying to reap benefits, such as arrogating a strong social credit among local communities. The money of organized crime also contributes to the financing of many religious events with the complicity of some priests. A relationship that lasted from the first years after the end of the Second World War (1939 – 1945), when the two camps fought against communism.

“In the mafia system, the figure of Mary has become that of a human being who must be submissive, therefore a slave, and who must accept the will of the Lord, the will of the owners, the will of the head of the mafia,” says Stefano Cecchin.

Work on the new department is set to begin in October with the participation of PAMI theologians, police, judges and experts in combating organized crime.