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Pope Condemns Mafia Violence on Children

Pope Francis leaves at the end of a meeting with relatives of innocent mafia victims, in Rome's St. Gregorio VII church, near Vatican, March 21, 2014.
Pope Francis visited the heartland of one of Italy's most powerful mafia organizations Saturday, calling for an end to child suffering at the hands of organized crime.

During his one-day trip to the Calabria region, the pope met with relatives of a three-year-old boy shot and killed in January in an apparent mob hit over money. Calabria is the power base of global drug trafficking syndicate the 'Ndrangheta.

The boy, Nicola "Coco" Campolongo was killed along with his grandfather and his grandfather's female companion.

Pope Francis went Saturday to a prison in the town of Castrovillari to meet the boy's father, who is imprisoned there. Both of the boys' parents were in prison for drug crimes at the time of his murder. His mother is now reportedly under house arrest.

Francis also greeted 200 other inmates held at the prison. The French news agency AFP says many of the prisoners the pope met are serving time for mafia-related crimes.

The pope's campaign against organized crime has prompted warnings that he could become a mafia target.

Some information for this report comes from AP, AFP and Reuters.