.- Pope Benedict XVI condemned the organized crime that plagues the far reaches of southern Italy during a one-day visit to the area on Sunday.
He noted the region's beauty, but said âan often vicious criminality wounds the social fabricâ and combines with unemployment to make the place âa land that seems to live in a state of constant emergency.â
The Pope made his comments during a homily delivered to over 40,000 people at a public Mass in the town of Lamezia Terme in Calabria.
He urged local people not to be afraid âto live and witness to faith in the various sectors of society.â Instead, he said, they should show themselves as âstrong, confident and courageous,â knowing that when they face opposition they can find inspiration in the words of St. Paul: âI can do all things in him who strengthens me.â
Calabria is home to the secretive Ndrangheta gang, which masterminds much of Europeâs organized crime, including money laundering, drug trafficking and racketeering. The region also has an unemployment rate of about 32 percent, four times higher than the national average.
Prior to the Mass, Mayor Gianni Speranza of Lamezia Terme told Pope Benedict how his people had to live with âunacceptable unemployment, and dramatic injustice and violence.â They âcannot allow the dominion of the mafia and organized crime to grow stronger.â He thanked the Pope for his presence, saying it gave them all âcourage and a voice.â
âNever give in to the temptations of pessimism and retreat in on yourselves,â urged the Pope in his homily.
âRely on the resources of your faith and your human capacities; strive to grow in the ability to collaborate, to take care of each other and the public good,â he said.
The Pope also used his homily to discuss todayâs Gospel, where Christ recounts the parable of the wedding guest who is thrown out of the banquet for not wearing a wedding garment. Drawing upon the thought of his sixth century papal predecessor, St. Gregory the Great, Pope Benedict explained its meaning.
âWe are all invited to be guests of the Lord, to come with faith to His banquet, but we must wear and cherish the wedding garment, charity, a life of profound love for God and neighbor,â he said.
At the conclusion of Mass, the Pope prayed the midday Angelus with those in attendance. He entrusted congregants and their region to the protection of Our Lady.
âLet us invoke the intercession of Mary for the most serious social problems in this area and the whole of Calabria,â he said, âespecially those related to unemployment, young people and the protection of persons with disabilities who require greater attention from all."