The Pope in Scampia: fight for dignity
Vatican City, 21 March 2015 (VIS) – At 9 a.m. the Pope’s helicopter landed in the sports field in the Scampia quarter, one of the most highly-populated in Naples, built between 1970 and 1990 largely in response to the emergency caused by the earthquake that devastated Naples in 1980. It is among the areas with the highest rates of unemployment in Italy.
From the sports camp the Pope travelled by Popemobile from St. John Paul II Square, where he met with the inhabitants of the zone and with the representatives of various social groups. Francis, surrounded by children, was greeted by the cardinal archbishop of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe, and by two other people who welcomed him on behalf of immigrants and workers.
The Holy Father went on to address those present, frequently deviating from his official text in order to enter into open dialogue with those present. “You belong to a population with a long history, marked by complex and dramatic vicissitudes”, he said. “Life in Naples has never been easy, but it has never been sad. This is your greatest resource: joy. Daily life in this city, with all its difficulties, discomforts and at times its ordeals, produces a culture of life that helps you to get up again after every fall, and to ensure that evil never has the last word. It is hope, as you well know, that is your great patrimony, this ‘lever of the soul’, so precious, but also so exposed to assault and robbery. One who voluntarily sets out on the path of evil steals a piece of hope. … He steals it from himself and from others, from the many honest and hard-working people, from the good name of the city, from its economy”.
He then responded to the Filipina speaker who had previously asked for a word of encouragement on behalf of immigrants and the homeless, who are also “children of God”. Francis, visibly moved, remarked that immigrants must not only be sure of being loved by and dear to God, but must also have the certainty of being citizens, and he remarked that it is the responsibility of all to ensure this. Moreover, he emphasised that we are all migrants, sons of God who walk a path together, as no-one truly has a fixed abode on this earth.
In response to the second speaker, the Pope remarked that the lack of employment is a negative sign of our times, and of a system that discards people, in this case the young who are thus deprived of hope for the future. He reiterated that unemployment, the impossibility of bringing home bread for one’s family, causes the profound suffering that comes with the loss of dignity. He also denounced forms of exploitation such as work without social security or pension contributions, and stressed that it is not possible to consider Christian a person who offers a job involving eleven hours’ work a day without security of any type and with very low rates of pay, and who remarks that if a worker is not willing to accept these conditions, there are many others who will. Francis referred to this form of exploitation as slavery, and urged all those present to combat it at its roots, to fight for dignity and not to give in when faced with injustice.
Finally, he responded to the greetings from a representative of the magistrature, who had spoken about the importance of education in creating honest citizens, and affirmed that undoubtedly the path of education is the way to hope and the best protection against evil.
He also spoke about corruption, affirming that a society that closes its doors to immigration and does not give work to the people is a corrupt society, a society in a state of decomposition, and he warned that, at the same time, no-one may consider himself safe from corruption, as it is very easy to fall victim to it, as it is a “slippery slope towards easy business … towards the exploitation of others. … A Christian who lets corruption in, is not a Christian!” he exclaimed.
Francis encouraged the presence and efforts of the city institutions, as “a community cannot progress without their support”, and he emphasised the need for “good politics”, that is, service to the people, to be carried out in particular in the local context, where the burden of defaults, delays, and omissions is more direct and most keenly felt. “Good politics constitutes one of the highest expressions of charity, service and love”, he remarked. “Implement good policy, together: politics is carried out together”.
“Naples is always ready to rise again, inspired by a hope forged by a thousand trials, that is therefore an authentic and concrete resource you can always count on. Its roots are found in the very soul of the Neapolitans, especially in their religiosity, their piety. … I hope you will have the courage to keep going, with your joy … the courage never to rob anyone of hope. … I hope that you will continue in your search for sources of work, so that all may have the dignity of being able to put food on the table, and to move forward in cleansing your soul, in cleansing your city, in cleansing your society, so that there may no longer be the odour of corruption”.