NAPLES, Italy – Pope Francis, visiting Italy’s impoverished south on Saturday, encouraged Neapolitans to resist exploitation by Mafia dons and instead seek the dignity of honest jobs.
On a day trip to Naples, Francis spoke to residents in Scampia, a rundown neighbourhood dominated by Camorra mobsters.
In places like Scampia, youth unemployment is rampant. Many wind up working for the Naples-based crime syndicate as drug couriers or extortionists, shaking down merchants for so-called “protection money.”
The worst problem is “not having the possibility to bring home the bread, to earn it” with dignity, Francis said.
He cited the widespread use of black market jobs in a city like Naples, where many work in clandestine garment factories or sell bootleg cigarettes or counterfeit electronic goods on the street.
But Francis also denounced the exploitation in legal jobs that require long hours for low pay. He told Neapolitans he heard about a young woman who was offered a job in the tourist sector paying 600 euros ($650) monthly for 11-hour days.
“’If you don’t like it, look at the line of people who are waiting for work,”’ Francis said was a common employers’ attitude. “This is called slavery, this is called exploitation.”
Scampia residents cheered his speech.
Later, in his homily in Naples’ main square, Francis urged tens of thousands of people to hold on to hope and resist the “easy earnings or dishonest income” of drug trafficking. He called on Mafiosi and their accomplices to abandon their criminal ways.
Francis spent lunchtime at the Poggioreale prison. Among the 120 or so inmates chosen to dine with him were 13 trans people and women transferred from other area prisons for the occasion, local media said.