Crowd cheers as Francis condemns "corruption and lawlessness."
Pope Francis on Saturday evening called the people of Caserta to have the courage “to say no to corruption and lawlessness” during an afternoon visit to the city, located in the Campania region of southern Italy.
He celebrated Mass in the Square in front of the Royal Palace of Caserta, which used to a residence of the King of Naples.
His reference to "corruption and lawlessness" drew applause in this region where, according to AP, members of the local version of the Mafia, the Camorroa, have poisoned local farmlands by dumping illicitly trafficked toxic waste.
As Francis delivered his homily, people in the crowd held a banner reading, "Against the Camorra."
The Pope’s reference to mobsters was apparent when he denounced "evil, violence and sheer abuse of power."
In his homily, Pope Francis said to inherit the Kingdom of God, Christians must put God first in their lives.
He said the presence of Jesus "transforms our lives and makes us sensitive to the needs of our brothers; a presence that invites us to accept every other presence, including that of foreigners and immigrants.”
“Giving primacy to God means having the courage to say no to evil, violence, oppression; to live a life of service to others and in favor of lawfulness and the common good,” said Pope Francis.
The Holy Father said when someone finds God—“the true treasure”—he leaves behind selfishness and seeks to share the love of God with others.
“He who becomes a friend of God loves his brothers, is committed to safeguarding their lives and well-being, and also respects the environment and nature,” said Pope Francis, noting this was particularly important in the beautiful area of Campania, which he said needs to be “protected and preserved.”
The Pope said this requires everyone to be “servants of the truth” and live a life inspired by the Gospel, which “is manifested in the gift of self and with attention to the poor and excluded.”
The trip was announced after the previously announced trip to visit Pastor Giovanni Traettino, a Pentecostal minister who is an old friend of the Pope. This second visit will take place on Monday, and according to a Vatican statement, will be “will be a strictly private, simple and quick.”
The mayor of Caserta, Pio Del Gaudio, said the area was excited the Pope agreed to add a public visit to the city to his schedule.
“It’s a revival of the image of the city,” he told Vatican Radio. “Unfortunately, the province has some problems [the south of Italy suffers disproportionately from poverty and organized crime], but I have seen so much enthusiasm in the preparations for this visit…We are certain that Pope Francis can well-interpret the anxieties of our territory.”
The mayor acknowledged Caserta has suffered from the effects of the Camorra, but said the vast majority of the people are good. He added the state is intervening in the most affected areas.
“Even if it’s bad to have to wait for the Pope to listen more attentively, I believe we can build on this visit,” said Del Gaudio. “We will invite the Pope to check back with us in a few years.”
Last month, in Calabria, another southern region plagued by organized crime, Francis said mobsters were excommunicated for their "adoration of evil."