Scampia Neighborhood Hoping For A "New Springtime"

People From All Walks of Life Gather to Meet Pope Francis, 25 Years After St. John Paul II’s Historic Visit

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The sun rises slowly in Scampia, awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis this morning, silhouetted against the the seven “Vele” (Sails), the enormous urban housing building designed by architect Franz di Salvo, a symbol of contention that with every year represents more and more the degrading conditions of its citizens.

Tragedy still remains: the skyscrapers initially designed for the middle class were disfigured during the earthquake that struck in 1980. Now, they are destined for demolition after many attempts of trying to salvage what was left. The over 200 families who have illegally occupied the apartments have no intention to leave: mainly because they have nowhere else to go.

“There is a risk in transferring them to another area of Naples and create a “new” Scampia: with the same problems, the same limitations, the same internal contradictions”, explains Fr. Dorian De Luca, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Naples.

“The Church here is very active” – he continued – “as well as the Jesuits, the ecclesial movements and various lay associations who are involved directly in the area. Health care centers and schools are up and running.”

In short, Scampia is not just a neighborhood of the ‘Gomorrah’, but an urban area looking to evolve and change. It is a face that still bears the scars of uncontrollable drug trafficking and the internal feuds among the ‘Camorra’ gang who fought in these very streets.

Then there is the greatest point of fragmentation in their society: an area with one of the highest unemployment rates in Italy. Other problems include the loneliness of families and even a certain “syndrome of earthly conquest due to those who transform the poverty of many as an opportunity to gain.” This was underlined by Fr. Alessandro Gargiulo, pastor of the the parish of ‘Buon Rimedio’, who will lead today’s meeting with the Holy Father, according to the news circulated today in the Square.

“We still have not shaken off the label of outpost of evil, yet we deserve a little more confidence because we are beginning to see something [change],” the priest writes.

A confidence entrusted to Scampia by St. John Paul II in his historic visit on November 10th, 1990, in the same square visited by his successor this morning.

John Paul II spoke of the “strength of the soul” and “Christian hope” in which the local residents should face everyday life. He then spoke those words that remained in the hearts of the people of Scampia, so much that they placed them on the banner that hangs on the giant structure overlooking the square: “We must not surrender to evil! Never!”

An exhortation that was a push, in these 25 years, for this neighbourhood in the northern outskirts of Naples to build a “new springtime”. Pope Francis will come then to renew the courage to change, the hope of a new life.

And he will say it to everyone: men and women of culture, politics, law, but also immigrants, abused families, workers, the unemployed.

Meanwhile, the speakers echo the chanting of children from the parishes from the parishes of Scampia, each one with a white cap, gathered at the foot of the gazebo where the Pope will speak. Here they awaited to greet him with a thunderous: “Buongiorno Francè!”

And they’ve been waiting since 6 in the morning. Because today in Scampia, there is finally, a reason to celebrate.

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Salvatore Cernuzio

Crotone, Italy Bachelor's degree in Communication Sciences, Information and Marketing (2008) and Master's degree in Publishing and Journalism (2010) from LUMSA University of Rome. Vatican Radio. Rome Seven. "Ecclesia in Urbe. Social Communications Office of the Vicariate of Rome. Second place in the Youth category of the second edition of the Giuseppe De Carli Prize for religious information.

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