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Pope Tells People of Sicily not to Fear Organized Crime

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to celebrate an open-air mass at Palermo, on the island of Sicily, 03 Oct 2010

Pope Benedict XVI arrives to celebrate an open-air mass at Palermo, on the island of Sicily, 03 Oct 2010

Tens of thousands of people attended a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on Sunday in the Sicilian capital, Palermo. The pope traveled to the island for the first time in his papacy.

Under a bright sun and blue skies, Pope Benedict celebrated mass on an esplanade in front of the Mediterranean Sea in the Sicilian port city of Palermo. Tens of thousands turned out to hear the pope's words on his first visit to the island since he became the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

The pope told those gathered how he is aware that in Palermo, and in the whole of Sicily there is no lack of difficulties and problems. He referred to those who struggle due to lack of work and experience feelings of uncertainty over their future. He also spoke of those who suffer physically and morally because of organized crime.

In a likely reference to mobsters, the pope said evil-doers should be ashamed of offending God as well as society with their deeds.

Pope Benedict paid tribute to Father Pino Puglisi, a priest slain by the Mafia in 1993 for trying to galvanize people to oppose organized crime. Then he said: "People of Sicily, look with hope to your future."

The pope said he had come to Sicily to encourage the faithful. He urged them not to fear being clear witnesses of human and Christian values.

He told Sicilians not to be scared to live and witness the faith in the various sectors of society, in the many situations of human existence, above all in those that are difficult.

He also told those gathered that the temptation toward discouragement, to resignation, comes to those who are weak in faith, to those who confuse evil with good, to those who think that, faced with often profound evil, there is nothing to be done.

During his one-day visit to Sicily the pope was also meeting with members of the clergy and holding an encounter with around 20,000 young people in the center of Palermo.