Among the lingering images of the Pope’s visit to Naples will certainly be that of Francis speaking in Scampia, surrounded by children. On the first day of spring, he brought words of hope that went beyond the confines of a very beautiful but disfigured city. His words tapped into one single word, that of Jesus, who, Bergoglio later underlined, is the only force that can change the world, as he celebrated Mass with the Bishops of Campania in Piazza del Plebiscito, the central square in Naples.
The papal visit began early in the morning under the gaze of Mary, venerated at the Shrine of Pompeii. “We need Our Lady”, Francis said with simplicity to the faithful who welcomed him. He wished to enter the metropolis by way of one of its neighbourhoods most fraught with difficulty, but one which has not been disheartened: “When you don’t see happiness, look for it within”, read an enormous sign in front of the stage.
The address of the Pontiff, who mostly improvised, called for the tenacious drive to begin again: “This is a beautiful challenge: never let evil have the final word”, he said. Then responding to the greetings of an immigrant from the Philippines, of a labourer and of a judicial officer, Francis touched on issues which they have particularly at heart and which revolve around the central theme of the dignity of every human being.
Dismayed at the need to do so, he emphasized migrants’ rights, exclaiming, “they are immigrants like us, because we are all immigrants moving toward another homeland”, recalling a theme rooted in the oldest Christian source. The Pope also raised a strong appeal against unemployment, especially among young people, and against illegal work: “This lack of work robs us of dignity. We have to fight for this, we must defend our dignity as citizens”.
He condemned corruption, with highly effective expressions, and praise for “good politics” which, he repeated, “is one of the loftiest expressions of charity, service and love”. His meaningful and precious words were clearly intended not only for the reality in Naples and in Italy, but applicable to a historical climate that urgently needs to rediscover civil and religious reasons to truly fight corruption and to foster political commitment to move forward in “cleaning up society”.
These themes returned again in his homily in Piazza del Plebiscito and at his meeting with the inmates of Poggioreale. The Pope’s visit to the city of Naples, which so enthusiastically welcomed him, was indeed marked by hope, the motto of the journey. “Today spring begins, and spring brings hope”, Pope Francis said, adding that in this season of hope “the future of Naples” is a “season of redemption”, open to the future of God.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 19, 2019
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