In some southern areas of Italy, the Catholic Church and the Mafia have had a long and complicated history. Over the years, some Catholic priests have courageously opposed the crime families, and paid with their lives. However other priests have attended weddings, funerals, and other sacraments for mafia dons, accepted their donations, participated in their religious processions, and turned a blind eye to their evil doings. It is difficult to understand that support coming from the clergy, and those priests have been asked to explain their actions, but fear certainly plays a part. It could also be due to the fact that the Mafia has done some things to legitimize its power and its authority in the eyes of the rest of the community. After World War II, both the Church and the Mafia fought hard together against communism, their common enemy. In order to enhance their social standing, organized crime began funding religious festivals and religious processions honoring the local patron saints. In that era, the Virgin Mary was the heroine of anti- communism and she became hugely important in mafia culture. Organized crime began exploiting her image for their illicit ends. Popular displays of Marian devotion by mobsters resulted. Statues of the Virgin Mary were and still are routinely paraded in processions which sometimes take detours to the homes of the local Mafia leaders where Mary is made to bow in homage and obedience to those leaders. The message being sent to the community is that God is on the side of the Mafia. The past three popes have vehemently denounced organized crime. Pope Saint John Paul II made a historic appeal for the conversion of the Mafiosi in Sicily in May, 1993. Pope Benedict XVI defined the Mafia as a “road of death” during his visit to Palermo in 2010. Pope Francis excommunicated the Mafiosi in Sibari, in 2014. Now Pope Francis seeks to liberate the Virgin Mary from the Mafia. In January, 2021 he gave his blessing to a new Vatican working group that seeks to prevent the Mafia from  exploiting the image of the Virgin Mary. The group includes police officers, judges, and anti-racketeering experts, as well as theologians. Massimo Faggioli, a theologian says he believes that the working group is a sign of Pope Francis’s determination to end the Mafia’s cultural colonization of Catholic ritual once and for all. The reporter for the Guardian wrote that Pope Francis seem to be truly committed to purifying the theology of the people. We will see if it can be done.