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Church parade past Mafia home a challenge to pope

ROME (AP) — In apparent defiance of Pope Francis, a church procession detoured from its route through a southern Italian town to honor a convicted mobster under house arrest.

Interior Minister Angelino ALfano on Sunday denounced the tribute in Oppido Mamertina, a Calabrian town and ‘ndrangheta crime syndicate stronghold, as ‘‘deplorable and disgusting.’’ He praised three Carabinieri policemen who abandoned the procession in disapproval.

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On June 21, Francis, visiting Calabria, had denounced the ‘ndrangheta for its ‘‘adoration of evil’’ and said its members were excommunicated. The July 2 procession included clergy, the mayor, families and dozens of men carrying a Madonna statue on their shoulders.

Calabria’s anti-Mafia prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, told The Associated Press that the detour to the mobster’s house appeared to be a ‘‘challenge to the diktat’’ of Francis.

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