- Since Pope Francis took office in April he has made clear he intends to rid the Holy See of corruption
- He has already forced his own number two Cardinal Bertone into retirement after he was accused of retirement
- In one of his first sermons as Pope he took aim at mafia calling on them to repent for 'exploiting and enslaving people'
- Calabrian Ndrangheta is concerned by Pope Francis's crusade against corruption
The Mafia are considering a lethal strike on Pope Francis, a senior prosecutor in Italy's crime-torn deep South has warned.
The pontiff's life is in danger because his desire to sweep away corruption in 'a total clean-up' is making organised criminal groups 'nervous', the deputy chief prosecutor of Reggio Calabria, Nicola Gratteri, claimed.
Since Francis took office in April, he has made it clear that he intends to rid the Holy See of its corrupt ways and clean up the notorious Vatican bank, long used by money launderers.
He immediately dispatched the chairman of the IOR bank Gotti Tedeschi and subsequently forced his own number two Cardinal Bertone, who had been accused of corruption, into retirement.
In one of his first sermons as Pope he took aim at the mafia calling on them to repent for 'exploiting and enslaving people'.
And earlier this week in his most impassioned sermon to date, the pontiff said that officials who took bribes should be 'tied to a rock and thrown in the sea'.
Dr Gratteri said the members of the Calabrian Ndrangheta mafia are concerned by Pope Francis's crusade against corruption, 'wearing his iron crucifix, as he rails against worldly goods and plans a total clean up'.
He told the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano: 'Those that are in the financial arms of the mafia are concerned by Pope Francis, yes.
'Those who until now have been feeding off the wealth and power that comes directly from the Church are agitated and nervous.'
Pope Francis speaks to Archbishop Georg Ganswein as he arrives in St. Peter's Square
He added: 'Papa Bergoglio [sic] is dismantling the centres of economic power in the Vatican. If the bosses could take him down they would not hesitate.'
The prosecutor admitted that the mafia would not necessarily be capable of such a strike, with the Vatican security services some of the best in the world.
'I do not know if organised criminal gangs are in a position to do something, but they are certainly considering it. It's a dangerous time for Pope Francis.'
In recent years, the Ndrangheta, based in Calabria, the 'toe' of Italy, has become the largest, richest and most feared of the country's three main criminal organisations.
Specialising in cocaine trafficking, the Ndrangheta controls some 80 percent of the market in Europe and has invested its profits in northern Italy, Germany and the US.
They have forged links with terrorist organisations worldwide and the drug cartels of South America.
Meanwhile, according to the 14th annual survey from the Global Language Monitor, a Texas-based company that tracks top talkers on the web, the Pope is now the most talked-about person on the planet.
More people are chatting about the Pope online than Edward Snowden, Kate Middleton and Miley Cyrus.
The organisation based its analysis on English-language blogs, social media and 275,000 electronic and online news media.
Besides being the Internet's top name, the Pope's Twitter handle @Pontifex was the fourth most talked about word in 2013.
The top three words were: '404' - the numeric code for a broken web-page; 'fail' and 'hashtag'.