Pope Benedict the16th carried out a one-day visit to the crime-ridden southern city of Naples. He made an appeal for everyone to work towards ending a widespread mentality of violence that pervades everyday life in the city. Sabina Castelfranco reports from Naples.
Tens of thousands of Neapolitans holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the pouring rain took part in the pope's mass in the central square of Piazza Plebiscito. Amid heavy security, Pope Benedict arrived early in the southern Italian city early to celebrate mass and meet with religious leaders taking part in a 3-day annual peace conference.
More than 40 religious leaders from around the world who are attending the conference took part in the pope's mass. During his homily, he spoke of the problems experienced by the citizens of Naples, a city where, he said, life is not simple.
The pope said there are many situations of poverty, lack of homes, unemployment, and no prospects for the future. And then, he added, there is the sad phenomenon of violence.
Benedict said it is not only a question of the terrible number of killings by the Camorra organized crime syndicate, but also the fact that violence tends unfortunately to become a widespread mentality and risks attracting young people.
The pope urged for work to be intensified for a serious strategy of prevention focusing on schools and the workplace and on helping young people spend their free time. Benedict appealed for efforts to be made by all to combat every form of violence.
Before the Sunday Angelus prayer, the pope greeted the religious leaders attending the international peace conference, including Jews, Muslims and Christians. The conference, organized by the Catholic Community of Sant'Egidio, is focused on dialogue between religions and cultures to promote a world without violence.
Among those participating in the conference are Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, as well as Lutheran and Methodist representatives.
After a meeting with the religious leaders, the pope was to visit Naples Cathedral and pray in front of the relics of Saint Gennaro, the city's patron saint. The blood of the saint is believed to liquefy in its ampoule every year in early May, in what many believers consider a miracle.