AFP - The Vatican has downplayed a warning that Pope Francis could be targeted by the mafia because of his reforms to Holy See financial bodies.
"There is no reason for concern, and there is no need to feed alarmism," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.
He added that the Vatican -- and, by extension, the pope -- was "extremely calm" regarding the alleged threat.
The warning was voiced by Nicola Gratteri, a respected state prosecutor in the southern Calabria region, who said the vicious local mafia, the 'Ndrangheta, is "nervous" the pope is threatening its interests.
"Those who up to now have fed off the power and wealth coming directly from the Church are nervous, upset," he said in an interview published by the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano this week.
The pope, Gratteri said, "is dismantling the Vatican's economic centres. If the mafia bosses can trip him up, they won't hesitate."
Gratteri didn't substantiate his warning. But his words reverberated through the Italian and foreign media, sparking fears for the pontiff's safety.
Initially the Vatican tried to dismiss the allegation. But from Thursday it started saying it was simply taking the warning in its stride.
Implied in Gratteri's comments is that Italy's mafia has its tentacles in the Vatican's obscure financial dealings and agencies, some of which have been marred by scandal.
Since taking the papacy in March, Pope Francis has set about cleaning up the Holy See's vast holdings and making them more transparent.
One of his first steps was to install a special commission tasked with investigating the Vatican's bank and another to probe Vatican finances in general.