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Pope Urges Residents of Naples to Resist Organized Crime

Pope Francis gestures as he leaves at the end of meeting with youths at the seafront during his pastoral visit in Naples, March 21, 2015.

Tens of thousands of people greeted Pope Francis on Saturday in Italy’s impoverished south, where he addressed issues of organized crime and corruption.

Francis told residents in Scampia, a run-down neighborhood of Naples dominated by Camorra, the regional mafia, that "the lack of work is stealing our dignity."

"The most difficult problem is not having the possibility to bring home the bread, to earn it," the pontiff said. "And when you can't earn your bread, you lose your dignity."

Youth unemployment is high in places like Scampia, where many end up working as drug couriers or extortionists for the Naples-based crime syndicate.

Francis also called on members of organized crime to abandon violence and exploitation and stop the "tears of the mothers of Naples."

Later, in a Mass at Piazza del Plebiscito, the main square of Naples, Francis urged Neapolitans to react firmly to organizations that exploit young people and the poor.

"Resist with determination the organizations that exploit and corrupt the young, who exploit and corrupt the poor and the weak with the cynical business of drug-dealing and other crimes," he said. "Don't let them steal your hope."

Francis had lunch with about 120 inmates at the overcrowded Poggioreale prison in Naples, where 2,500 inmates are squeezed into a space intended for about half that number.