Vatican City, 22 March 2014 (VIS) – Yesterday Pope Francis visited the Roman Church of San Gregorio VII, where he met with more than 700 families of the victims of the mafia, representing approximately 15,000 persons who have lost loved ones as a result of mafia violence. Since 1996 the first day of spring, 21 March, has been dedicated to the memory of the victims of mafia groups and every year the “Libera” association organises a demonstration in a different town. This year it took place in Latina, where today the 19th Day of Memory and Commitment is to be held on the theme “Roots of memory, fruit of commitment”.
The prayer vigil in the Church of San Gregorio began with an address by the priest Don Luigi Ciotti, founder of “Libera”, after which the names of the 900 victims of the mafia were read aloud. Following the reading of the Gospel and the Beatitudes, the Pope addressed the following words to those present:
“I wish to share with you a hope, and it is this: that the sense of responsibility might gradually prevail over corruption, in every part of the world. … And this must begin from within, from consciences, and from there it is necessary to heal, to restore to health forms of behaviour, relations, choices, the social fabric, so that justice gains space, spreads, takes root, and supplants iniquity.
“I know that you feel this hope strongly, and I want to share it with you, to tell you that I will be close to you also tonight and tomorrow, in Latina – even if I cannot be there in person, I will be with you on this journey, which requires tenacity and perseverance.
“In particular, I wish to express my solidarity with those who have lost a loved one, as a victim of mafia violence. Thank you for your witness, because you are not closed, you are open, you have come forward to tell your story of pain and hope. This is so important, especially for the young. I would like to pray with you, and I do so from the heart, for all victims of the mafia. Even just a few days ago, near Taranto, a crime was committed in which even a child was not spared. But at the same time let us pray together, to ask for the strength to go on, not to be discouraged, but instead to continue to fight against corruption.
Pope Francis continued, speaking off the cuff, “I feel that I cannot finish without saying a word to those who are absent today, to the absent protagonists: to the men and women of the mafia. Please, change your lives, convert, stop what you are doing, stop doing harm. And we pray for you. Convert, I ask you this on my knees; it is for your own good. This life you are living now will not bring you pleasure, it will not bring you joy, it will not bring you happiness. Power, the money you have now from your many dirty dealings, from your many mafia crimes, is blood money, it is power that is stained with blood, and you will not be able to take it with you to the next life. Repent, there is still time, so as not to end up in hell. This is what awaits you if you continue on this path. You have a father and a mother: think of them. Cry a little, and repent”.