Archbishop Tommaso Caputo of Pompei said that his diocese has welcomed the Pope's recent condemnation of organized crime and has several initiatives in place to help affected families.

"The Italian church has always taken into great consideration the problems relating to the South of Italy," where mafia activity in its various forms is deeply seated, Archbishop Tommaso Caputo told CNA Feb. 28.

Archbishop Caputo oversees the diocese of Pompei, where Pope Francis will stop to visit the city's sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Holy Rosary for roughly 30 minutes before heading on to Naples Saturday, March 21.

The archbishop alluded to problems the area faces due to mafia activities and violence, and said that the action of those involved in organized crime "offends man, society, every sense of ethics, religion, the very meaning of 'honor,' and backfires, then, against themselves."

He then recalled Pope Francis' recent words to members of the diocese of Cassano allo Jonio, who had an audience with the Pope Feb. 21, exactly eight months after the Pope visited the diocese, where he had harsh words for those involved in organized crime.

In his audience, Francis reiterated to attendees that those who love Christ "cannot call themselves Christians and violate the dignity of the person; those who belong to the Christian community cannot program or carry out acts of violence against others and against the environment."

Pompei is ready to listen to the Pope, Archbishop Caputo said, adding that Francis' condemnation of the mafia and his call for their public conversion "have fallen on fertile ground."

The archbishop also noted how the man known as the founder of modern Pompei – Blessed Bartolo Longo – worked fiercely to combat the "painful realities" of his time, including corruption.

A layman, Longo was originally born into a devout Catholic family, but eventually left the Church with the rise of anti-papal sentiments spurred by the push for Italian unification in the 1860s.

With involvement in the Occult also on the rise during that time, Longo joined a Satanist cult and eventually claimed to have been ordained as a Satanist priest. He eventually converted back to Catholicism through the guidance of a Dominican priest, who encouraged him to pray the rosary.

After his conversion, Longo worked tirelessly to evangelize the people of Pompei and to spread devotion to the rosary. He established the Marian sanctuary of Pompei after receiving an image of Mary from his confessor, which is still hanging in the shrine today.

Archbishop Caputo stressed that from the beginning the sanctuary and the Church of Pompei have always been firmly committed in the fight against organized crime, "because everyone was given the opportunity to earn their bread honestly and to promote the dignity of man and woman."

"Our social works are still numerous" even today, he said, thanks to the generosity of several orders and institutions dedicated to serving those in need.

He gave a special shout-out to the Dominican sisters founded by Bl. Bartolo Longo, the Daughters of the Holy Rosary of Pompei, and the Brothers of the Christian Schools, founded by St. Giovanni Battista de la Salle.

The brothers operate two day centers in Pompei that serve as a type of boarding school which currently assists more than 200 boys and girls between the ages of 6-18. The youth who attend come from neighboring cities, where activities surrounding organized crime are robust.

In addition to receiving food and classes in topics such as basic subjects and computer skills, the children are also provided with the opportunity to participate in activities such as music, ceramics, sports, theater and dance.

Another initiative run by the sisters helps single mothers and women who have escaped situations of domestic violence, who have the option of staying in a special section of their convent for a period of time if needed.

The Brotherhood of Mercy in Pompei helps to organize and run a mother-child clinic for needy families in Pompei, which is an initiative Archbishop Caputo described as "very active."

He said that the former workers' lodging has been converted into three houses designed to welcome women, children and teenagers who find themselves in difficult situations.

In addition, the brotherhood also runs a daily soup kitchen for the poor in the area thanks to the help of the Order of Malta.

The archbishop said these are just a few of the charitable activities going on in the diocese, and expressed his hope that the dynamic of criminal activity in the region will change.

However, he cautioned that for that to happen, there is a need for "a change of mentality in people."