Pope Francis’ visit to Naples on Saturday fostered the commitment of the local Church to combat corruption and to continue work on the ground that has already born much fruits in the city's peripheries, according to an official. “Our plan now is the most challenging one: being able to reach a sort of normality in our territories,” Fr. Tonino Palmese, vicar of charity for the Archdiocese of Naples, told CNA March 23. Fr. Palmese underscored the huge work on the ground carried forward over the course of the years by the local Church, adding, “we cannot say anymore that Scampia is the place where organized crime is rooted.” Visiting Naples’ northern neighborhood of Scampia, Pope Francis slammed corruption and unemployment in a land sadly known for the pervasive presence of Camorra, the local organized crime group, and as the main Italian center for international drug trafficking. However, thanks to the commitment of the local Church, the situation in Scampia has improved in the course of recent years. Fr. Palmese explained that “during these days, I called to memory the moments of St. John Paul II’s visit to Scampia in 1990, and I found that St. John Paul II and Pope Francis may have viewed Scampia in a different way, because the scenario has changed.” “When St. John Paul II visited Scampia, the block was fully under the control of organized crime, while Pope Francis met with an active workshop of citizens who work for the territory, so that Scampia is not a land of Camorra anymore,” Fr. Palmese stressed. He then added that “in Scampia, parishes have worked in harmony; there is a nice communion and friendship among parish priests, and this may be of example to civil society.” Emanuela Febbraio, 25, a practicing lawyer, was among the people who went to see the Pope in Scampia March 21. She said that “addressing corruption and slamming unemployment, Pope Francis fully met the needs of the territory of Naples, and particularly of Scampia.” Febbraio stressed that “Pope Francis called each of us to be responsible for the good of our city.” As part of Renewal with the Spirit, she and a group of other Catholic young people started “a path of renewal for the city, trying to reach out to every part of the city in order to announce the Gospel, since the commitment of everyone must be rooted in Gospel.” This is a story of ordinary life in Naples, where parishes are active to relieve the population from social exclusion and to build networks of faith and social commitment. Fr. Marco Beltratti is the parish priest of the huge parish of Sacro Cuore in Vomero, a central Neapolitan neighborhood inhabited by diverse income groups. “I am entrusted with a flock of 30,000 people … what I try to do is to favor the encounter among people of every social class… I try to reach out to every part of the parish, and to foster young people's need to network among themselves… and I desire that this network be built upon the personal encounter with God, so every activity is accompanied by moments of catechesis.” Such ordinary stories of the Archdiocese of Naples are often overshadowed by the description of Naples as a crime-addicted town where there is no hope left for anyone. Despite the difficulties, Fr. Tonino Palmese made an appeal to media. “If we want Pope Francis’ visit to be successful, we should start to describe the good things in the territory of Naples, and quit being blinded by the problems and difficulties.”
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