You cannot call yourself a true believer if you participate in organized crime, Pope Francis told members of the Cassano all’Jonio diocese in Italy on Saturday. No one, the Pope said Feb. 21, can “call themselves Christians and violate the dignity of the person; those who belong to the Christian community cannot program or carry out acts of violence against others and against the environment.” “Jesus never invited demons to lunch, no he chased them away, because they are evil,” he said, emphasizing that Christ and evil are incompatible. Mere external signs of devotion which are not coupled with a true and “public” conversion “are not enough to be considered in communion with Christ and His Church,” Francis stressed. “External gestures of religiosity are not enough to credit as believers those who with the malice and arrogance typical of criminals, make lawlessness their lifestyle,” he said, calling those affiliated with criminal organizations to a conversion of heart. Pope Francis’ words were delivered in a speech given to faithful from the southern Italian diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, who came to the Vatican to thank the Pope for his June 21 visit last year. While celebrating Mass during his one-day trip to the region of Calabria, Pope Francis had spoken harsh words against the local mafia, known as the 'Ndrangheta, calling them “adorers of evil” and saying that all who have chosen the “evil road, such as the mobsters, (are) not in communion with God. They are ‘excommunicated.’” In today’s audience with Calabrian pilgrims, the Pope reaffirmed these sentiments, and once again called those involved in crime to conversion. “Open your heart to the Lord! The Lord is waiting for you and the Church welcomes you if your willingness to serve the good is as clear and public as was your choice to serve evil,” he said. Roughly 100 buses left Calabria this morning, bringing close to 7,000 pilgrims to the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where they celebrated Mass with Cassano all’Jonio’s bishop, Nunzio Galantino, at 10:30 before having an audience with the Pope at noon. In addition to his responsibilities in Cassano all’Jonio, Bishop Nunzio is also the Secretary-General of the Italian Bishop's Conference. Francis recalled how he met with the imprisoned, sick, elderly and religious during his previous visit to the diocese. He asked the people to pray for more vocations. In particular, he praised the work of one group — the Emmanuel Community — for aiding young people caught in the web of drug addictions. “Our era is in great need of hope! Young people should not be denied hope, young people need to hope; we must offer those experiencing pain and suffering concrete signs of hope,” he emphasized. “Social realities and associations, as well as individuals who work in hospitality and sharing, are generators of hope.” “Therefore I urge your Christian communities to be protagonists of solidarity, not to stop in front of those who, out of a narrow self-interest, sow selfishness, violence and injustice. Oppose the culture of death and be witnesses to the Gospel of Life!”
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