Pope Francis this morning issued stark warnings to people who rob others of hope; with a strong voice and a clenched fist, he condemned mafia dons, drug traffickers and those who exploit workers.
And he shook his head in wonder that anyone could treat an immigrant as if he or she was a worthless annoyance.
In Naples’ Scampia neighborhood, one of those “peripheries” of poverty and degradation the pope speaks about so often, an immigrant woman from the Philippines asked the pope to please remind people that immigrants are children of God.
“Have we reached the point where that’s necessary?” the pope asked the crowd. “Are migrants second-class humans?”
“They are like us, children of God,” he said. What is more, they are reminders that this world is not the permanent home of anyone and that “we are all migrants (moving) toward another homeland.”
“We are all children of God,” he said, “beloved children, desired children, saved children. Think about that! None of us has a permanent home in this world.”
The pope also insisted, loudly and repeatedly, that high unemployment rates — especially among youths — were a detriment to society and a failure of the current economic system and public policies.
The problem is not simply the poverty joblessness creates, he said, but the way it robs people of dignity and of hope for the future. “When one is unable to earn his daily bread, he loses his dignity,” the pope said.
While Naples is popular for its pizza, its songs and dance, its popular piety and religious art, it also is the notorious home of the Camorra crime ring, delinquency, corruption and drug abuse.
“Tell me,” the pope told the crowd in Scampia, “if we close the door on migrants, if we take away the jobs and dignity of people,” what will happen? Corruption “is a temptation, it’s a slide,” he said.
Everyone has within them the possibility of being corrupted, of paying someone under the table or looking for easy cash, he said. But “something that is corrupt is dirty, eh. If we find a dead animal, it is going bad, it’s corrupt, it’s ugly. But it also stinks. Corruption stinks! And a corrupt society stinks. A Christian who allows corruption is not a Christian. He stinks, understand?”
Pope Francis began his day with a 7 a.m. helicopter flight from the Vatican to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary in Pompeii, outside of Naples. After praying there, he went to Scampia and then on to Naples’ central square, the Piazza del Plebiscito for Mass.
Addressing mafia members and other criminals during his homily, the pope said: “Humbly, as a brother, I repeat: Convert to love and justice. Let yourself be found by God’s mercy. Know that Jesus is looking for you to embrace you, kiss you and love you.”
“The tears of the mothers of Naples, mixed with those of Mary our heavenly mother,” also are pleading for the corrupt to change their ways, he said. “These tears can melt the hardness of your hearts and lead everyone back to the path of goodness.”
And to the struggling people of Naples, Pope Francis said, “Don’t let anyone rob you of hope. Don’t give into the lure of easy money or dishonest wages,” he said. Hanging on to hope, he said, is the first step in resisting evil.
After Mass, Pope Francis went to a local prison where he greeted hundreds of inmates and hand lunch with close to 100 prisoners who had been chosen by lottery. The prisoners reportedly included 10 from a prison block set aside for prisoners who are homosexual, transgender or HIV-positive.
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