Saturday, June 21, 2014

In Calabria, The Pope's Hit – "The Mafia Is Excommunicated"

Even as today's papal visit to Cassano all'Ionio saw Francis deliver moving messages to prisoners and priests alike, as expected, the day's headline came elsewhere.

Closing out the daylong trek with a Mass – in a rarity for pontifical liturgies, a Sunday vigil – along the shore of the Ionian Sea, the Pope tackled the area's tormented legacy of organized crime, declaring that 'ndrangheta,
 the locally-based syndicate widely thought to be Italy's most feared Mafia branch, "is this: the adoration of evil and contempt of the common good."

Going further, and lifting his head from his prepared text, Papa Bergoglio said that "those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mafiosi, they are not in communion with God – they are excommunicated!"

The massive crowd responded by erupting into applause and cheers. Video:

In January, the Mafia murder of a 3 year-old boy in a Cassano car-bombing sparked outrage across Italy and saw Francis deliver prayers and a rebuke for the perpetrators at his Sunday Angelus. Prior to today's Mass, the Pope met the grandparents and father of the young victim, Coco Campolongo. On another front, Papa Bergoglio's "Mob hit" comes a day after Francis made global headlines for decrying the legalization of "any type of drug" as "a veiled way of surrendering to the phenomenon" of addiction in society.

Back to today, while canonists will take pains to emphasize that the "excommunicated" statement is by no means a formal decree with legal effect, in terms of the symbolics and public perception, its potency would be difficult to overestimate. For purposes of context, when a veteran prosecutor of Mob cases relayed last year that Francis had rattled 'ndrangheta amid his attempts to reform the Vatican's "power centers" – an agenda which "put [the Pope] at risk" – the official noted that "the church has never excommunicated a mobster."

As the thought has likely crossed the mind of not a few Italian bishops, they now have the clearance to proceed with it. Repeating an earlier word, the Mafia theme is fairly certain to resurface on July 5th, when Francis visits Campobasso, home to Italy's most outspoken prelate against the syndicates, Archbishop Giancarlo Bregantini.

On a side-note, the Mass came after a stop at a hospice (below) during which, according to wire reports, Papa Bergoglio asked one of the doctors to remove a splinter from his finger.

More to come... (SVILUPPO: Significant as the preceding is, it was equaled – if not eclipsed – by a moment on the road into town.)

...for now, here's the Vatican's English translation of the Pope's homily for the vigil Mass of Corpus Christi (the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ), which is transferred to tomorrow in Italy and most of the global church:

On the feast of Corpus Domini, we celebrate Jesus “living bread that came down from heaven” (Jn 6,51), food for our hunger for eternal life, strength for our journey. I thank the Lord, who today allows me to celebrate Corpus Domini with you, brothers and sisters of this Church, which is in Cassano allo Jonio. Today’s feast is that on which the Church praises the Lord for the gift of the Eucharist. While on Holy Thursday, we recall its institution at the Last Supper, today thanksgiving and adoration predominate. And, in fact, it is tradition on this day to have the procession with the Blessed Sacrament. To adore Jesus Eucharist and to walk with him. These are the two inseparable aspects of today’s feast, two aspects that mark the entire life of the Christian people: a people that adores God and walks with him.

Before all else, we are a people who adores God. We adore God, who is love, who in Jesus Christ gave himself for us, offered himself on the cross to expiate our sins and by the power of this love he rose from death and lives in his Church. We do have no other God than this!

When adoration of the Lord is substituted by adoration of money, the road to sin opens to personal interest ... When one does not adore the Lord, one becomes an adorer of evil, like those who live by dishonesty and violence. Your land, which so beautiful, knows the signs of the consequences of this sin. The ‘ndrangheta is this: adoration of evil and contempt of the common good. This evil must be fought, must be expelled. It must be told no. The Church, which is so committed to educating consciences, must always expend itself even more so that good can prevail. Our children ask this of us. Our young people ask this of us, they, who need hope. To be able to respond to this demands, faith can help us. Those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mobsters, they are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated!

Today, we confess this with our gaze turned to Corpus Domini, to the Sacrament of the altar. And, for this faith, we renounce Satan and all of his temptations; we renounce the idols of money, vanity, pride and power. We, Christians, do not want to adore anything or anyone in this world except Jesus Christ, who is present in the Holy Eucharist. Perhaps we do not always realize what this means in all its depth, the consequences our profession of faith has or should have. Today we ask the Lord to enlighten us and to convert us, so that we truly adore only him and we renounce evil in all its forms.

But our faith in the real presence of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, in the consecrated bread and wine, is authentic if we commit to follow him and to walk with him, seeking to put into practice his commandment which he gave to the disciples at the Last Supper: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (Jn 13,34). A people who adores God in the Eucharist is a people who walks in charity.

Today, as bishop of Rome, I am here to confirm you not only in faith but also in charity, to accompany you and to encourage you in your journey with Jesus Charity. I want to express my support to the bishop, the priests and the deacons of this Church, and also of the Eparchy of Lungro, rich in its Greek-Byzantine tradition. But I extend it to all the pastors and faithful of the Church in Calabria, courageously committed to evangelization and to promoting lifestyles and initiatives which put at the centre the needs of the poor and of the. And I also extend it to the civil authorities who seek to live political and administrative commitment for what it is—a service to the common good.

I encourage all to witness practical solidarity with your brothers, especially those who most need justice, hope and tenderness. Thank God, there are many signs of hope in your families, parishes, associations and ecclesial movements. The Lord Jesus does not cease to inspire acts of charity in his people who journey! The Policoro Project is a concrete sign of hope for young people who want to get in the game and create work possibilities for themselves and for others. You, dear young people, do not let yourselves to be robbed of hope! Adoring Jesus in your hears and remaining united to him you will know how to oppose evil, injustice, violence with the force of good, truth and beauty.

Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist has gathered us together. The Body of the Lord makes of us one, one family, the people of God united around Jesus, Bread of Life. That which I said to the young people, I say to all of you: if you will adore Christ, follow him and walk with him, your diocesan Church and your parishes will grow in faith and charity, in the joy of evangelizing. You will be a Church in which fathers, mothers, priests, religious, catechists, children, the elderly and the young walk alongside each other, support each other, help each other, love each other like brothers, especially in moments of difficulty.

Mary, eucharistic Woman, whom you venerate in many sanctuaries, especially at the one in Castrovillari, precedes you in this pilgrimage of faith. May she always help you to stay united so that, even by means of your witness, the Lord may continue to give life to the world.