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Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Pope arrives at the Shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary in Pompeii

Vatican City, 21 March 2015 (VIS) – At 7 a.m. today the Holy Father left the Vatican heliport to visit the shrine of the Virgin of the Rosary in Pompeii and the city of Naples.

The Pope's helicopter landed at the shrine at 8 a.m., where he was received by Archbishop Tommaso Caputo, archbishop of Pompeii and papal delegate for the shrine, and by the mayor of the city. Shortly after he entered the temple, where he was welcomed by the rector and recited a prayer of supplication before the image of the Virgin. “We deliver to you our miseries, the many ways of hatred and blood, the thousand old and new forms of poverty, and above al, our sin. We entrust ourselves to you, Mother of mercy; obtain for us God's forgiveness, and help us to build a world according to your heart”.

Francis gave thanks to the many people who welcomed him. “Thank you, thank you for this warm welcome”, he said. “We have prayed to Our Lady, asking her to bless us all: you, me and all the world. We need Our Lady, because she protects us. And don't forget to pray for me. Now, I invite you to recite all together a Hail Mary to Our Lady, and then I will offer you my blessing”.

The Pope then returned to his helicopter to commence his visit to Naples, starting from the Neapolitan suburb of Scampia where he was received by Cardinal Archbishop of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe.

The Pope in Scampia: fight for dignity

Vatican City, 21 March 2015 (VIS) – At 9 a.m. the Pope's helicopter landed in the sports field in the Scampia quarter, one of the most highly-populated in Naples, built between 1970 and 1990 largely in response to the emergency caused by the earthquake that devastated Naples in 1980. It is among the areas with the highest rates of unemployment in Italy.

From the sports camp the Pope travelled by Popemobile from St. John Paul II Square, where he met with the inhabitants of the zone and with the representatives of various social groups. Francis, surrounded by children, was greeted by the cardinal archbishop of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe, and by two other people who welcomed him on behalf of immigrants and workers.

The Holy Father went on to address those present, frequently deviating from his official text in order to enter into open dialogue with those present. “You belong to a population with a long history, marked by complex and dramatic vicissitudes”, he said. “Life in Naples has never been easy, but it has never been sad. This is your greatest resource: joy. Daily life in this city, with all its difficulties, discomforts and at times its ordeals, produces a culture of life that helps you to get up again after every fall, and to ensure that evil never has the last word. It is hope, as you well know, that is your great patrimony, this 'lever of the soul', so precious, but also so exposed to assault and robbery. One who voluntarily sets out on the path of evil steals a piece of hope. … He steals it from himself and from others, from the many honest and hard-working people, from the good name of the city, from its economy”.

He then responded to the Filipina speaker who had previously asked for a word of encouragement on behalf of immigrants and the homeless, who are also “children of God”. Francis, visibly moved, remarked that immigrants must not only be sure of being loved by and dear to God, but must also have the certainty of being citizens, and he remarked that it is the responsibility of all to ensure this. Moreover, he emphasised that we are all migrants, sons of God who walk a path together, as no-one truly has a fixed abode on this earth.

In response to the second speaker, the Pope remarked that the lack of employment is a negative sign of our times, and of a system that discards people, in this case the young who are thus deprived of hope for the future. He reiterated that unemployment, the impossibility of bringing home bread for one's family, causes the profound suffering that comes with the loss of dignity. He also denounced forms of exploitation such as work without social security or pension contributions, and stressed that it is not possible to consider Christian a person who offers a job involving eleven hours' work a day without security of any type and with very low rates of pay, and who remarks that if a worker is not willing to accept these conditions, there are many others who will. Francis referred to this form of exploitation as slavery, and urged all those present to combat it at its roots, to fight for dignity and not to give in when faced with injustice.

Finally, he responded to the greetings from a representative of the magistrature, who had spoken about the importance of education in creating honest citizens, and affirmed that undoubtedly the path of education is the way to hope and the best protection against evil.

He also spoke about corruption, affirming that a society that closes its doors to immigration and does not give work to the people is a corrupt society, a society in a state of decomposition, and he warned that, at the same time, no-one may consider himself safe from corruption, as it is very easy to fall victim to it, as it is a “slippery slope towards easy business ... towards the exploitation of others. … A Christian who lets corruption in, is not a Christian!” he exclaimed.

Francis encouraged the presence and efforts of the city institutions, as “a community cannot progress without their support”, and he emphasised the need for “good politics”, that is, service to the people, to be carried out in particular in the local context, where the burden of defaults, delays, and omissions is more direct and most keenly felt. “Good politics constitutes one of the highest expressions of charity, service and love”, he remarked. “Implement good policy, together: politics is carried out together”.

“Naples is always ready to rise again, inspired by a hope forged by a thousand trials, that is therefore an authentic and concrete resource you can always count on. Its roots are found in the very soul of the Neapolitans, especially in their religiosity, their piety. … I hope you will have the courage to keep going, with your joy … the courage never to rob anyone of hope. … I hope that you will continue in your search for sources of work, so that all may have the dignity of being able to put food on the table, and to move forward in cleansing your soul, in cleansing your city, in cleansing your society, so that there may no longer be the odour of corruption”.

“Do not be robbed of hope”

Vatican City, 21 March 2015 (VIS) – Piazza del Plebicito, the centre of Naples, was crowded with faithful today for the Eucharistic concelebration at which Pope Francis presided at 11 a.m. In his homily the Holy Father commented on the passage from the Gospel of St. John in which Jesus, in the temple, spoke about Himself as a source of “living water”, and the people began to discuss the truthfulness of this assertion. Although the high priests wanted to detain him, “as they did under dictatorships”, noted Francis, the guards returned empty-handed as they had heard “the voice of truth”.

“The Word of the Lord, today as yesterday, always causes division between those who welcome it and those who reject it”, explained the Pontiff. “It is, at times, an inner conflict in our hearts because we experience the fascination, the beauty and the truth of Jesus' words, but at the same time we reject them because they challenge us and it costs us too much to observe them”.

“Today I have come to Naples to proclaim with you, “Jesus is the Lord! No-one speaks like him! But I don't want to say it alone: I want to hear it from everyone!” continued Francis, inviting the faithful to repeat this phrase in unison. “He alone has the words of mercy that can heal the wounds of our heart. He alone has the words of eternal life. The Word of Christ is powerful: … its power is that of love, a love that knows no limits, a love that makes us love others before ourselves. The Word of Jesus, the Holy Gospel, teaches us that the truly blessed are the poor in spirit, the non-violent, the meek, workers of peace and justice. It is the strength that changes the world”.

“The Word of Christ is intended to reach out to everyone, in particular those who live in the peripheries of existence, so that they might find in Him the centre of their life and the source of hope. And we, who have had the grace of receiving this Word of Life, are called upon to go, to leave our confines and with zeal bring forth all the mercy, the tenderness, the friendship of God. Go and welcome: in this way the heart of the mother Church and all her children is able to beat. When hearts open up to the Gospel, the world starts to change and humanity is resurrected. If we welcome and live the Word of Jesus every day, we will rise again with Him. The Lenten period that we are living makes this message resound in the Church, as we proceed towards Easter: in all God's people the hope of rising again with Christ is reignited”.

“Dear Neapolitans”, exclaimed the Bishop of Rome, “make room for hope, do not let yourselves be robbed of hope. Do not fall pray to the promises of easy money or dishonest income. React decisively to the organisations that exploit and corrupt the young, the poor and the weak, with their cynical trade in drugs and other crimes. Corruption and delinquency disfigure the face of this beautiful city! To criminals and all their accomplices, I repeat: convert to love and justice! Let yourselves be found by God's justice! With the grace of God, Who forgives all, it is possible to return to an honest life. This is asked of you also by tears of the mothers of Naples, mixed with those of Mary, the heavenly Mother. … May these tears soften hard hearts and lead all towards the path of goodness”.

“Today is the beginning of spring, and today is a time of redemption for Naples: it is my wish and my prayer for a city that contains so much spiritual, cultural and human potential, and above all, so much capacity for love. The authorities, the institutions, the various social situations and citizens, all together and in harmony, can build a better future. And the future of Naples is not to withdraw into itself, but instead to open up trustfully to the world. This city can find in Jesus' mercy, which makes all things new, the strength to go ahead with hope. … To hope is to resist evil. To hope is to see the world through the eyes and heart of God. To hope is to wager on the mercy of God, Who is the Father, and Who always forgives all”.

Following Mass, the Pope transferred to the Poggioreale penitentiary, where he lunched with detainees.

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