Whether it was crime, unemployment, or immigration, Pope Francis has not shied away from confronting these very serious realities this morning, during his first stop in Naples.
After finishing the first leg of his pastoral visit today to Southern Italy in the town of Pompeii, the Pope transferred by helicopter to the Scampia sports field in Naples. He was welcomed by Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, who said: “When children call, the father comes. Thank you, Your Holiness.”
Though the cardinal was speaking in a figurative sense, it could be taken literally, as well. Very enthusiastic children welcomed the Pope with cheers and chants. They excitement was so loud that the Filipino immigrant about to give her testimony had to shush them in order to be heard.
After greeting and speaking to the people, including immigrants and the unemployed, Pope Francis began his remarks, saying, “I wanted to begin my visit at this periphery.”
While admitting life in Naples has never been easy, Francis said it’s never been sad. “Your joy is a treasure,” he told those gathered.
Yet, turning to the high crime rate in the area, the Pope noted, “Whoever chooses the path of evil robs himself and others of hope!”
Evil may steal “a piece” of hope, he said, but it “never has the last word.”
In light of the Italian city’s immigration and unemployment struggles, the Pope asked: “Do I really have to tell you that immigrants are children of God? … Are immigrants second class citizens?”
“No!” the Pontiff responded, “Immigrants are citizens like us!”
Continuing to deviate from his prepared remarks, the Holy Father said that none of us have a permanent home on Earth.
“We are all immigrants!” he said, noting it’s part of who we are.
Recalling the testimonies he heard by immigrants and the unemployed, the Pope said that 40 percent unemployment is a serious problem.
“Lack of jobs for young adults,” he stressed, “is a grave problem for society. Unemployment robs one of dignity.”
The Holy Father underscored that when the jobless rate is so high, people are exploited, and are “reduced to slavery” with long hours and low pay.
Pope Francis urged them to “Fight for decent jobs!” and for the dignity they deserve.