News

Pope Francis renews attack on mafia

Pope Francis renews attack on mafia

Pope Francis waves as he leads a mass at the palace of Caserta, former residences of the Royal House of Bourbon, in Caserta, southern Italy on July 26, 2014. Photo: Reuters/Max Rossi

By James Mackenzie

ROME (Reuters) – Pope Francis called for nature to be protected from criminal abuse on Saturday during a visit in the southern Italian town of Caserta, near Naples, in a region long blighted by illegal toxic waste dumps and the pervasive grip of the Camorra mafia.

During a televised open air mass before around 200,000 people, Francis said that the love of God meant respecting life, the environment and nature.

“I know that you suffer for these things,” he said in an impromptu remarks during his homily in front of the Reggia di Caserta, the former palace of the old Bourbon kings of Naples.

“It is particularly important in this beautiful region of yours which requires being protected and conserved, it requires us to have the courage to say no to any form of corruption and illegality,” he said to applause from the crowd.

“We all know what the name of these forms of corruption and illegality are,” he said.

While less explicit than his fierce attack on the mafia during a visit to Calabria last month, when he said those who followed the mafia’s “path of evil” were “excommunicated”, the setting of his words left no doubt of his target.

Now blighted by crime, corruption and chronically high unemployment, the region around Naples, known in ancient times as “Campania felix”, should be one of the most fertile areas of Italy due to the rich volcanic soil from Mount Vesuvius.

Instead, it has become notorious for the “terra dei fuochi”, or the “fire country”, polluted for decades by uncontrolled dumping and burnoffs of toxic waste that have been blamed for unusually high levels of cancers and other diseases.

Caserta itself lies just outside the so-called “Triangle of Death”, where the mortality rates are at their highest, but it is considered one of the strongholds of the Camorra, the Campania mafia, which is behind much of the illegal waste disposal.

“This magnificent region has been particularly hurt by so many deposits of waste from other parts of Italy and Europe which cause death and distress,” Giovanni D’Alise the bishop of Caserta said during the mass. “And there is no shortage of criminality and corruption in our region,” he said.

The Argentina-born Francis has repeatedly attacked the Italian mafia, launching his strongest condemnation during last month’s visit to Calabria, home of the group known as “Ndrangheta”, one of the most feared crime syndicates in the world.

The pope’s trip to Caserta, where he celebrated mass in honor of the town’s patron Saint Anne, was originally intended as a private visit to see a Pentecostal pastor he befriended in Argentina.

After pressure on the Vatican for the pope to make the visit to Caserta a public one, a separate, strictly private meeting with Pastor Giovanni Traettino is now expected on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Hannah Rantala, editing by G Crosse)

Recent Headlines

in Local

Rauner Denies Involvement in Springfield Reporter’s Resignation

Fresh
Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate businessman Bruce Rauner participates in a Republican gubernatorial candidate debate Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Springfield, Ill. The four Republican gubernatorial candidates said that they’ll be willing to work with unions if elected but differed on how to approach the relationship during a downstate debate that largely focused on pension reform, taxes and just briefly on personal issues that have dogged some of the candidates.

Bruce Rauner says his fingerprints are not on the Chicago Sun-Times.

in Local

Raymond Cub Scouts Still Improving

Fresh
medical

Police say the condition of three Cub Scouts is improving after they were injured in a chemical explosion.

in Local

Springfield Unemployment Numbers Show Decline

jobs

Unemployment dropped in all of Illinois' metro areas in September

in Election 2014, Local

Durbin: Sun-Times Reporter’s Departure “Worrisome”

Republican state Sen., Jim Oberweis, right, offers to give Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, more paper after Durbin joked about only getting one page of paper for notes before their first of two televised debates prior to the Nov. 4 election Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, in Chicago. Oberweis, a dairy entrepreneur from Sugar Grove, has acknowledged it will take a big GOP year to unseat Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate who's represented Illinois on Capitol Hill for more than three decades.

Bruce Rauner’s campaign is being accused of bullying the Chicago Sun-Times, and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) says that should be a troubling sign to voters.

in Local

Sears Announcement Doesn’t Include Springfield Stores

unemployed

Sears says it is closing more than 100 stores and laying-off more than 5,400 employees across the nation.