VATICAN CITY, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- On Sunday, Pope Francis prayed during his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter's Square for the young victim of a suspected Mafia murder in southern Italy, and called on those responsible to "repent."
The body of 3 year-old Nicola "Coco" Campolongo was found January 19, along with his grandfather, Giuseppe Iannicelli, and a 27 year-old in a burned-out Fiat Punto in the Calabria region. Coco had been shot in the head.
Pope Francis observed at the Mass, "This violence against such a small child seems without precedent in the history of crime" and called for prayer. "Let us pray with Coco, who is certainly with Jesus in heaven and for the people who carried out this crime, so that they repent and convert to the Lord."
Police suspect the 'Ndrangheta crime organization of orchestrating the killings. No one has yet been arrested. The mafia was likely targeting Coco's grandfather, who was on house arrest for a drug-related offense. At the time of the shootings, Coco's 24 year-old mother was in jail, serving a four year sentence for possessing and selling drugs.
In response to the murder that shook the country, Italian Interior Minister Alfano Angelino and National Police Chief Alessandro Pansa signed an emergency protocol in Coco's to protect similarly vulnerable children. Pansa said "We need ... to make sure the protocol does not forget children who are growing up in vulnerable situations outside the law, who may be victims or witnesses to crimes. We need to make sure Coco is the last child ever killed like this."
[CNN] [New York Daily News]