Pope Francis rails against crime and corruption in southern Italy
Pope Francis visited one of Naples` most violent and drug-infested neighbourhoods on Saturday and urged residents not to let organised crime and corrupt politicians rob them of hope.
Naples: Pope Francis visited one of Naples` most violent and drug-infested neighbourhoods on Saturday and urged residents not to let organised crime and corrupt politicians rob them of hope.
Francis, on a day-long trip to the southern city, addressed a crowd in the notorious Scampia neighbourhood, a stronghold of clans of the Camorra, the Naples version of the Sicilian mafia.
He spoke in the shadow of a dilapidated sail boat-shaped housing project known as Le Vele, so dangerous that even police are sometimes afraid to enter, residents say.
The blighted area has often been the battleground of Camorra clans fighting each other for control of drug trafficking and extortion rackets.
"See to it that evil is not the last word. It (the last word) has to be hope," he told a crowd of several thousand people as he was surrounded by children who rushed the stage to sit on the floor at his feet.
"Those who voluntarily take the road of evil rob a piece of hope. They rob it from themselves and from everybody, from society, from so many honest and hard-working people, they rob it from good name of the city and from its economy."
Since his election two years ago, Francis - who renounced the spacious papal apartments used by his predecessors and lives is a small apartment in a Vatican guest house - has made the defence of the poor a key plank of his papacy.
He has also said members of organised crime excommunicate themselves from the Church and that it would welcome them back if they repent and change their ways.
Addressing the pope in the Naples neighbourhood where drugs are sold openly and youth unemployment is more than 40 percent, the city`s archbishop, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, spoke of the "many evils that afflict us, such as crime and the Camorra".
Francis listened to a Filipino immigrant woman and an unemployed Italian man tell of their difficulties and a magistrate speak of "juvenile delinquency, desperation and death" in Naples.
Francis, often departing from his prepared address, defended immigrants, saying they could not be considered "second-class human beings". He called for just wages for workers, and railed against corruption in public life.
"How much corruption there is in the world! I hope you have the courage ... to clean up the city and clean up society so that there is no longer that stink of corruption," he said.
The pope spoke a day after Italy`s transport minister, Maurizio Lupi, stepped down over a graft inquiry involving public works contracts. Lupi has denied any wrongdoing.
Francis drew cheers from the crowd when he said "May the Madonna accompany you" in the Neapolitan dialect.
Francis later began a Mass in Naples` historic centre. He is also due on Saturday to share a meal with inmates at a prison and address young people on the famous waterfront in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius.