NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) - Pope Benedict condemned “disgraceful” Camorra mobsters who contributed to a culture of lawlessness in Naples, during his first trip as Pontiff to the troubled Italian city on Sunday.
Addressing a crowd of thousands huddled under umbrellas in Naples’ main square, the Pontiff said Catholics must prevent their children being tempted into a life of crime.
“For many, life is not simple: there are so many situations of poverty ... there is the sad phenomenon of violence,” the Pope told the crowd on a rainy, grey morning.
“There is a need for an intervention that joins everyone in the fight against every form of violence.”
Naples, the largest city in southern Italy, has long been synonymous with chronic crime and is home to the Camorra, a local version of the Sicilian Mafia which thrives on drug trafficking and extortion.
The Pope said violence associated with organized crime fed into wider society.
“It’s not just about the disgraceful number of crimes by the Camorra but also the fact that violence tends unfortunately to become a widespread mentality ... with the risk of especially attracting the young,” he said.
High unemployment in Naples provides a steady stream of Camorra recruits.
The Pope’s trip coincides with the start of a major inter-faith conference in Naples dedicated to combating violence, called “For a World Without Violence: Religions and Cultures in Dialogue”.
Shortly before the Pope spoke, Naples’ archbishop, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, acknowledged violence “had found fertile ground” in the southern port city.
“The Church, however, does not tire of affirming that violence is always an offence against God,” Sepe said.
Later on Sunday the Pope was due to meet religious leaders attending the conference, including Muslims, Jews and Buddhists.
“May this important cultural and religious initiative contribute to consolidating peace in the world,” he said.
Benedict’s visit to Naples came on the 28th anniversary of a 1979 visit to Naples by his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, whose trips to the city also included calls for an end to mob violence. Benedict urged Naples residents not to lose hope.
Speaking before a crowd including Prime Minister Romano Prodi, the Pontiff told local people they should not wait for politicians to act. He called for a renewal of faith and hope “capable of effectively combating discouragement and violence”.
“Naples obviously needs substantial political action, but first still, a profound spiritual renewal,” he said.