VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Being Christian is putting God first in one’s life, which means having “the courage to say no to evil, violence and exploitation,” Pope Francis said, visiting another southern Italian town scarred by mafia crime.
In Caserta, about 130 miles south of Rome, Pope Francis did not denounce the Camorra, as the local mafia is known, but he told an estimated 200,000 people gathered for Mass July 26, “we all know the name of these forms of corruption and illegality.”
The area around Caserta is known in Italy as the “terra dei fuochi” (land of fires) because of the fires illegally set to burn garbage, including toxic waste. Acres of once fertile farmland in the area are now too polluted to use and residents report higher than normal cancer rates.
Pope Francis told the residents that if they are going to call themselves Christian, then they should demonstrate that by loving one another and “making a commitment to safeguard their life and their health, including by respecting the environment and nature.”
Before arriving in Caserta by helicopter, the pope was flown over the area. He told the crowd at Mass, “your beautiful land deserves to be cared for and preserved, which requires the courage of saying no to every form of corruption and illegality.”
Pope Francis originally had planned to make a private visit to Caserta July 26 to visit a Pentecostal pastor friend of his. But when the local bishop and residents heard, they informed the pope and Vatican officials that the date chosen was the feast day of the town’s patroness, St. Anne. The pope asked his aides to quickly organize the Mass and he postponed the visit to his friend until July 28.
The Mass was celebrated outside the Reggia di Caserta, an 18th-century royal palace. A locally loved statue of St. Anne holding the hand of her little girl, Mary, was placed to the side of the altar and blessed with incense by the pope at the beginning of the liturgy.
In his homily, the pope said, “Today is the feast of St. Anne; I like calling her the grandma of Jesus and today is a good day to celebrate grandmothers.”
“When I was using the incense, I noticed something very beautiful: the statue of St. Anne does not have a crown, but her daughter Mary is crowned,” the pope said. “St. Anne is the woman who prepared her daughter to become queen, to become queen of heaven and earth. This woman did a great job.”
At a time when bishops in southern Italy have been struggling to ensure popular feasts retain their religious significance and are free of mafia manipulations, Pope Francis also encouraged Catholics in Caserta to ensure their celebrations of St. Anne are “free of any outside influence and are an expression of the pure faith of a people who see themselves as the family of God and strengthen their bonds of brotherhood and solidarity.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103