Pope celebrates mass in Mafia heartland Sicily

Pope Benedict XVI denounced the "evil" of Italy`s organised crime today as he celebrated an open-air mass before tens of thousands of pilgrims in the heartland of the Sicily`s Mafia.

Last Updated: Oct 03, 2010, 20:58 PM IST

Palermo: Pope Benedict XVI denounced the "evil" of Italy`s organised crime today as he
celebrated an open-air mass before tens of thousands of pilgrims in the heartland of the Sicily`s Mafia.

Benedict`s first visit to the island since becoming pope in 2005 raised hopes among campaigners that he will help their struggle against the ever-pervasive Cosa Nostra. The pope said faith made humanity possible, even when the people of Palermo and across Sicily faced "a shortage of jobs, uncertainty about the future, moral and physical suffering, and organised crime."

"I am here to give you a strong incentive to not be afraid to testify clearly to human and Christian values, so deeply rooted in faith and in the history of this land and its people," he said.

He called on Sicilians, dogged by Mafia extortion and intimidation, to be "ashamed of evil, which offends God and man" and for the effects of organised crime which "injures
the civil and religious community" to be brought into the open.

Organisers said around 250,000 people attended the mass in bright sunshine in Palermo`s giant Foro Italico square, overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Police had earlier said 30,000 had crammed into the square. "People of Sicily, look to the future with hope," he
said. "Live with courage the values of the Gospel to shine a light on good. With the power of God, everything is possible."

The pope arrived at Palermo`s Falcone Borsellino airport, named after two judges killed by the Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, in 1992, before travelling through the city in
his popemobile.
Residents hung banners from their houses welcoming the pontiff, but the atmosphere was subdued, in part due to restrictions on movement and a heavy security presence.

AFP