‘They are killing Naples’: Catholic archbishop appeals for an end to mafia violence

Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples, Italy. Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples, Italy. | Vincenzo Amoruso via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

The archbishop of the Italian city of Naples responded on Tuesday to a spate of deadly violence with an appeal for members of organized crime groups to “be converted.”

“They are killing Naples! The trail of blood that is crossing the city these days, causing death to young lives and terror and anguish to entire neighborhoods, streets, families, cannot leave us indifferent,” Archbishop Domenico Battaglia said in an Oct. 12 statement on the archdiocesan website.

His appeal followed the Oct. 9 murder of a 19-year-old man. Police are investigating the man’s connections to the Camorra, a Naples-based criminal organization. A 23-year-old man was also killed last week.

Over the weekend, armed robbers entered a pizzeria in a Naples suburb, pointing guns at families eating dinner, including young children.

In his message, Battaglia addressed members of the Camorra and others connected with crime.

“I say: go back to being human! Be converted!” he said. “Your bishop will not hold back in welcoming and accompanying the steps of conversion and the human rebirth of those who will listen to their conscience and the word of the Gospel, laying down their weapons, and undertaking paths of collaboration with justice.”

The 58-year-old Battaglia became archbishop of Naples in December 2020. Prior to the appointment, he was a parish priest in another southern Italian archdiocese, Catanzaro-Squillace, where he was called “Don Mimmo” and known as a “street priest” who cared for the marginalized.

Battaglia said this week that he and a group of young adults from the archdiocese would visit the Ponticelli district of Naples, one of the areas most affected by the Camorra’s recent escalation of violence.

“They are killing Naples!” he reiterated. “The Camorra and the underworld are killing it, with the violence and cruelty of those who have forgotten that they are human.”

He added that people’s indifference and a failure to take a stand against the violence were also destroying the city.

“Under the cross of our city, we must today more than ever, together and without distinction of faith, politics, social and institutional role, stand up, avoid lying on our backs waiting for something to change by itself and sitting, hardened and resigned to seeing Naples die,” he said.

Addressing the mothers of Naples, especially those living in difficult neighborhoods and family situations, he said: “Be an instrument of conversion for your children, help your families to repent, be once again the womb that generates life and not accomplices of death paths.”

Battaglia will hold a meeting on Oct. 13 with members of civil society, the private sector, and the Catholic Church to work on an educational initiative for Naples.

“The kids and young people of Naples cannot be passive recipients of change but must become its protagonists,” he said.

“To all institutions, to civil society, to men and women of goodwill, to my Neapolitan Church, I ask today more than ever to walk together, overcoming individualism and mistrust, working together to restore Naples to its vocation as a city of peace, welcome, solidarity.”

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