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Pope Francis: Terrorism must be faced with determination

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We owe those who keep us safe greater “support, prayer, and closeness,” says the pope.

VATICAN CITY – Terrorism and organized crime must be faced with determination, and we owe those who keep us safe a greater debt of “support, prayer, and closeness,” Pope Francis said on Monday.

Addressing Italy’s national anti-mafia, anti-terrorism department on January 23, in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall, the pope said: “Money from dirty business deals and mafia crimes is blood money, and it produces iniquitous power. We all know that the devil ‘enters through your pockets.’”

The mafia is “an expression of a culture of death,” and is “radically opposed to faith and the Gospel, which are always for life,” he said.

In his address, the pope said that society “needs to be healed from corruption, extortion, the illegal trafficking of drugs and arms, trafficking in human beings, including many children, who have been enslaved.” He therefore urged anti-mafia taskforce members especially to combat human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants.

“These are serious crimes that affect the weakest among the weak,” he said.

The pope also noted the importance of educational initiatives aimed at the younger generations, to “foster a consciousness of morality” that conquers evil and promotes a social fabric which is open to the hope of a better world.

Acknowledging the great personal sacrifice members make in fighting the mafia and terrorism, the pope said that that citizens who benefit from their work owe them greater “support, prayer, and closeness.” He prayed that the Lord would always give them the strength to continue, and not be discouraged.

Here below is an English translation of the pope’s address.

Dear Ladies and Gentleman,

I am delighted to welcome you who represent the national anti-mafia and anti-terrorism directorate. I cordially greet and thank Dr. Franco Roberti for his words.

The roles entrusted to you by the State pertain to the prosecution of criminal offenses of the three largest mafia-type criminal organizations: Mafia, Camorra and ‘Ndrangheta. By exploiting economic, social and political deficiencies, these organizations find fertile ground to achieve their deplorable projects.

Your jurisdiction also includes the fight against terrorism, which is becoming increasingly cosmopolitan and devastating. I wish to express my appreciation and my encouragement for your activities, which are difficult and risky, but more essential than ever for the ransom and delivery from the power of criminal organizations, which are responsible for violence and oppression stained by human blood.

Society needs to be healed from corruption, extortion, the illegal trafficking of drugs and arms, and trafficking in human beings, including many children, who have been enslaved. These are true social wounds and, at the same time, global challenges which the international community is called to face with determination. In this perspective, I have learned that your law enforcement activities are being appropriately carried out in collaboration with colleagues from other States. This work, carried out in synergy and the effective means, is an effective check and security measure for the community.

Society relies heavily on your professionalism and your experience of prosecutors engaged in combating and eradicating organized crime. I urge you to make every effort, especially to combat human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants: these are serious crimes that affect the weakest among the weak! In this regard, it is necessary to increase activities aimed at protecting the victims, including legal and social assistance to our brothers and sisters in search of peace and future. Those who flee their countries because of war, violence, persecution, are entitled to find an appropriate welcome and suitable protection in countries that call themselves civil.

To complement and reinforce your valuable work to crack down, we need broad educational interventions, aimed especially at the younger generations. For this purpose, various educational agencies, including families, schools, Christian communities, and sports and cultural entities, are called to foster an awareness of morality and law oriented towards models of honest, peaceful and united lives that gradually conquer evil and pave the way for good. It is a matter of beginning with consciences, of healing individual intentions, choices, and attitudes, so that the social fabric might be open to the hope of a better world.

The mafia phenomenon, as an expression of a culture of death, it is to oppose and fight. It is radically opposed to faith and to the Gospel, which are always for life. Those who follow Christ have thoughts of peace, fraternity, justice, acceptance and forgiveness. When the sap of the Gospel flows in the disciple of Christ, good fruit ripens that is easily recognized even externally, with corresponding behaviors which the Apostle Paul identifies as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-mastery” (Gal 5:22).

I think of the many parishes and Catholic associations that are witnesses of these fruits. They carry out a commendable job in the region, aimed at promoting the people, a cultural and social promotion aimed at gradually eradicating the weed of organized crime and corruption. In these initiatives is manifest the Church’s closeness to those who live in tragic situations and need to be helped to escape the spiral of violence and regenerate hope.

Dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord always give you the strength to carry on, not to be discouraged, but to continue to fight corruption, violence, the mafia, and terrorism. I am aware of the fact that the work you carry out involves risking your lives, I know this; and the risk of other dangers for you and for your families. The mafia way of acting does these things. Therefore, additional passion, sense of duty and strength of mind are needed, and also, on our part, of the citizens who benefit from your work, [additional] support, prayer, and closeness. I assure you that I am very close to you, in your work, and I pray for you.

At the same time, may the just and merciful Lord touch the hearts of men and women of the various mafias, that they might stop, cease to do evil, convert and change their lives. Money from dirty business deals and mafia crimes is blood money, and it produces iniquitous power. We all know that the devil “enters through your pockets”: the first corruption happens there.

For you, your families and your work I invoke the Lord’s assistance. I repeat: I am very close to you. And as I also ask you to pray for me, I bless you from the heart.

May the Lord bless you and your families.

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