Pope Telephones School in Area Targeted by the Mafia

Local Sister and Pupils Sent Holy Father Box of Picture Postcards

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Pope Francis has telephoned an Italian religious sister after she and the pupils of her school sent the Holy Father a box of postcards, each with a photo of a child who had died of cancer.

«I pray for all of you and especially bless the children,» the Holy Father told Sister Teresa, superior of Daughters of St. Anne in Casal di Principe near Naples, in a telephone call last Thursday.

The sisters run a kindergarten and primary school in the town, located in a region called the “land of fire”. Its name derives from the illegal dumping of toxic waste there by the camorra, a local mafia gang.

For decades the countryside has been plagued by industrial, toxic and nuclear waste from northern Italy and northern Europe. The burning of it has led to a high rate of cancers, especially in children, and breast and thyroid cancers in young women. A local priest, Fr. Peppe Diana, was killed by the camorra twenty years ago, Avvenire said in a Nov. 19th report.

“Together with the children, we sent the Pope postcards with pictures of the children who have died of cancer and their moms,” recounted Sister Teresa. “Every family gave a small contribution to pay for the shipping. I also included the school phone number.”

Then the unexpected phone call came. «I still don’t believe it,” Sister Teresa said. “He told me it is Papa Francesco and he wanted to thank the children for the postcards”, adding his prayers and his blessing, especially for children and their families. “I didn’t know how to respond.”

At that time, Sister Teresa was in a class with young children. «They quickly realized as soon as I said ‘Papa Francesco’. They were happy, they made a big fuss and almost prevented me from understanding all the words.”

The postcards are part of an in-depth study on the topic of waste. «We’ve talked a lot in class, we have discussed with the children, they are very careful and sensitive,” she explained.

Avvenire reported that the news of the call immediately went around the area, including the feuding clans of the camorra. 

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