Pope Francis broke bread with prisoners, confronted Mafia members, accepted a pizza and witnessed a miracle during his 10-hour visit to Naples, Italy on Saturday.
Francis, known for his pastoralism as well as his emphasis on social justice, began his day among the impoverished and often looked-down-upon residents of the Scampia region of Naples.
In addition to speaking out about the consequences of high unemployment rates, he addressed, at the behest of a woman from the Philippines, the rights and dignity of immigrants, Catholic News Service (CNS) reports.
“(Immigrants are) reminders that this world is not the permanent home of anyone and that we are all migrants (moving) toward another homeland,” Francis said, according to CNS.
The pope also made frank comments about the reality of corruption and corrupt politicians.
“A corrupt society stinks. A Christian who allows corruption is not a Christian,” Francis said, according to CBS News. “He stinks, understand?”
Francis’ bold criticism of the issues that underlie the city did not stop at politicians, however.
He extended his reach to members of the Mafia, whom he implored to “convert to love and justice” and allow themselves to “be found by God’s mercy,” CNS reported.
Following his interactions with the people of Scampia, Francis met with people in the religious life in the Cathedral of Naples. He held Mass, during which he blessed the congregation while holding Naples’ most adored relic, a vial of the blood of St. Januarius, Huffington Post reports.
Half of the blood liquefied within the vial, a miracle that the archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzo Sepe, celebrated as a sign that “St. Januarius loves the pope.”
Though the blood of St. Januarius, a martyred bishop of Naples, typically liquefies around three times a year, this occasion marked the first time it has done so in the presence of a pope since 1878. Francis took the opportunity to encourage the congregation to become stronger in prayer, Vatican Insider reports.
“(The fact that the blood only half liquefied) means the saint loves us halfway; we must all convert a bit more, so that he would love us more,” Francis said, according to Vatican Insider.
After the allegedly miraculous Mass, Francis dined with 100 prisoners from a nearby prison.
The prisoners had been chosen from a lottery and included 10 people from a prison block that exclusively contains people who are gay, transgender or HIV positive.
Francis spoke candidly, CNS reported, and recalled the story of the first saint, the criminal crucified beside Jesus. He encouraged the prisoners to emulate this saint by choosing to follow Christ for the rest of their lives.
As the visit drew to a close, Francis was driven along the waterfront. The ecstatic crowd lining the road parted as a flour-covered man approached the papal procession carrying a pizza pie.
The man, an artisan chef, leapt over a security barrier to present the custom, specially-made pizza to Francis.
Though the Popemobile did not brake, Francis accepted the pizza from the moving vehicle, Vatican Insider reports.
Although Francis had written sermons for most of the stops, he chose instead to disregard the prepared material and spoke informally. He consistently emphasized hope and addressed social issues such as euthanasia and immigration.
March 10, 2015