(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says that people involved in organized crime or who deliberately carry out acts of violence against others or the environment cannot call themselves Christian.
The Pope’s comments were contained in a speech delivered Saturday to pilgrims from the Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, who had travelled to Rome on a ‘return visit’ to thank the Holy Father.
In June last year, Pope Francis made a one day visit to the diocese in the southern Italian region of Calabria which has been deeply scarred by the local organized crime group, the 'Ndrangheta. During that visit the Pope had issued a call to conversion to all of those still involved in organized crime.
A call he renewed on Saturday, when he stated: “those who love Jesus, who hear and receive the Word and live in a sincere response to the call of the Lord cannot in any way give themselves over to works of evil”.
The Pope went on to say people who “violate the dignity of person; who program or carry out gestures of violence against others and against the environment” cannot call themselves Christian.
He added that external forms of piety without “a real conversion are not enough to be considered in communion with Christ and his Church”. Pope Francis appealed to “those who have chosen the path of evil and are affiliated to criminal organizations” to open their heart to the Lord. “The Lord is waiting for you and the Church welcomes you” he said “if your willingness to serve good is as clear and public as was your choice to serve evil”.
Below please find a Vatican Radio translation of excerpts from the Holy Father’s address:
The memory of my visit to your diocesan community is still alive in my heart: the meetings with the prisoners, the sick, with priests, religious, seminarians…how many seminarians are there now? Eight? That’s not good enough…we must pray, pray for more vocations….Ok? The Lord told us to pray so he will send priests I entrust in your prayer…. I remember the meeting with the elderly; my visit to the Cathedral and the Seminary; and then the extraordinary presence of people in the plain of Sibari, but all of Calabria was there!
I had a firsthand experience of your faith and your love. The Lord help you to always walk together, in parishes and associations, led by the Bishop and priests. May He help you to be welcoming communities, to accompany towards Christ those who are struggling to discern His presence that saves.
I would like to reaffirm a thought that I suggested during my visit: those who love Jesus, who hear and receive the Word and live in a sincere response to the call of the Lord cannot in any way give themselves over to works of evil. Or Jesus, or evil! Jesus never invited demons to lunch, no he chased them away, because they are evil, or Jesus or evil! They cannot call themselves Christians and violate the dignity of person; those who belong to the Christian community cannot program or carry out gestures of violence against others and against the environment.
External gestures of religiosity that are not accompanied by a real and public conversion are not enough to be considered in communion with Christ and His Church. External gestures of religiosity are not enough to credit as believers, those who with the malice and arrogance typical of criminals, make lawlessness their lifestyle. To those who have chosen the path of evil and are affiliated to criminal organizations I renew the pressing invitation to conversion. Open your heart to the Lord! The Lord is waiting for you and the Church welcomes you if your willingness to serve the good is as clear and public as was your choice to serve evil.
Dear brothers and sisters of Cassano, the beauty of your land is a gift from God and a heritage to preserve and pass in all its splendor onto future generations. Therefore, all must courageously commit to ensuring it is not scarred beyond repair by narrow interests, above all the competent institutions.
The Emmanuel Community is among the "beauties" of your territory. It is an example of acceptance and sharing with the weakest. Young people devastated by drugs have found in you and in your structures the "good Samaritan" who knew how to bend over their wounds and was able to anoint them with the balm of closeness and affection. How many families have found in you the help they needed to restore hope for the fate of their children! The Church is grateful to you for this service. By being present alongside young people and adults subjugated by dependencies, you have embraced the suffering Jesus and you sow hope.
Our era is in great need of hope! Young people should not be denied hope, young people need to hope; we must offer those experiencing pain and suffering concrete signs of hope. Social realities and associations, as well as individuals who work in hospitality and sharing, are generators of hope. Therefore I urge your Christian communities to be protagonists of solidarity, not to stop in front of those who, out of a narrow self-interest, sow selfishness, violence and injustice. Oppose the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of Life! The light of the Word of God and the support of the Holy Spirit will help you to look with new and welcoming eyes towards the many new forms of poverty which cast many young people and families into despair.
Upon all of you present here and the entire Diocese of Cassano all'Jonio I invoke the protection of Mary, whom you venerate under the titles of Our Lady of the Chain and Our Lady of the Castle. You are accompanied by my Blessing, and, please, do not forget to pray for me.