In spite of the notoriety the southern Italian city of Naples has for organized crime and chaos, Pope Francis has assured its people that “God lives in Naples.”
Speaking to the thousands gathered in the city’s famous Plebiscito Square, the Pope stressed how their city has so much to offer the world and so much joy, and that those whose unlawful lives detract from that, can turn their lives around.
During his homily, the Pope said that only Jesus has the words of mercy which heal us and can give us eternal life. Even with our greatest sins, Francis pointed out, Jesus is always hoping we will turn to him, so He can give us this new start.
“To the criminals and all their accomplices, today, I, humbly, as a brother, repeat: Convert to love and justice,” the Pope said.
Hoping to shake some consciences, the Holy Father reminded the faithful, “Do not be robbed of hope!”
“Do not give in to the lure of easy money or dishonest income,” he said.
Those who are truly blessed, he said, “are those poor in spirit, the non violent, the meek, and the peacemakers.”
Since “this is the force that will change the world,” the Pontiff urged the Neapolitans to share the mercy, tenderness, and friendship of God with all people.
“React firmly,” he said, “to organizations that exploit and corrupt the young, the poor and the weak,” especially those tied to crime and drugs.
Francis strongly called on the people of Naples to not allow corruption and crime “disfigure the face of this beautiful city and the joy of the Neapolitans.”
To those involved in shady lives, he urged them to let God’s mercy take hold. “With the grace of God, who forgives all and always forgives, you can return to an honest living.”
This conversion he noted not only is wanted in the sinner’s heart–whether or not he realizes it–, but also from Mary, the Mother of Naples, whose tears “melt the hardness of hearts and lead all back on the path of good.”
Today, the Holy Father said, “spring begins, a time of redemption. And now it is time to surrender. This is my wish and my prayer for a city that has so much potential.”
The Pope also appealed to the authorities, institutions, various social realities and citizens to, all together, build a better future for the city, a future not closed in on itself, but that gives off hope to the rest of the world.
Francis reminded them that “this city can be founded on the mercy of Christ, who makes all things new, [and] the strength to go forward with hope.”
“God, the source of our joy and reason for our hope,” the Pope said, “lives in our cities.”
“God lives in Naples,” Pope Francis concluded, followed by: ‘May Our Lady accompany you’ in the Neapolitan dialect.
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