March 21, 2015
Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples, Italy
Pope Francis celebrated the Eucharist in Naples on Saturday morning. Tens of thousands of people packed into Piazza del Plebiscito, a main square of the southern Italian city, for the open-air Mass. Large tapestries of local saints decorated the square.
During his homily, the Pope called on the city’s residents to embrace the Words of Jesus and to work together for “redemption for Naples.” He also called to conversion all those who lead criminal and corrupt lives.
“Dear Neapolitans, do not allow hope to be stolen from you,” he said. “Do not give in to the lure of easy money or dishonest income. React firmly to organizations that exploit and corrupt the young, the poor and the weak, with the cynical drug trade and other crimes. May corruption and delinquency do not disfigure the face of this beautiful city.”
“To criminals and all their accomplices, the Church repeats: convert to love and justice! Allow yourselves to find the mercy of God! With the grace of God, who forgives all, it is possible to return to an honest life,” he said.
Below is the Vatican Radio translation of the Pope’s complete homily:
The Gospel we have heard presents us with a scene set in the Temple of Jerusalem, at the height of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles, after which Jesus proclaimed a great prophecy revealing himself as the source of “living water,” that is, the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 7:37-39). Then the people, very impressed by him, began to speak about Him – even today, people speak about him. Some were excited and said, "He is really the prophet" (v. 40). Someone even affirmed, "This man is the Christ!" (v. 41). But others were opposed because, they said, the Messiah does not come from Galilee, but from the seed of David, Bethlehem; and so, without knowing it, they confirmed the identity of Jesus.
The chief priests had sent officers to arrest him, as occurs in dictatorships, but they return empty-handed and say, "No man ever spoke like that!" (v. 45). Here is the voice of truth that resonates in those simple men.
The Word of the Lord, yesterday like today, always causes a division–the word of God always divides–between those who welcome it and those who reject it. Sometimes, it sparks an interior conflict in our hearts; this happens when we perceive the attractiveness, beauty and truth of Jesus' words, but at the same time we reject them because they are challenging, they put us in difficulty, and cost us too much to observe.
Today I came to Naples to proclaim together with you: Jesus is Lord! I do not want to say it alone. I want to hear you say it. (Jesus is Lord!) Once again. (Jesus is Lord!) Nobody speaks like him! He alone has the words of mercy that can heal the wounds of our heart. He alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68).
The Word of Christ is powerful: it does not have the power of the world, but that of God, which is strong in humility, even in weakness. Its power is that of love—that is the power of the Word of God—a love that knows no bounds, a love that makes us love others before ourselves. The Word of Jesus, the Holy Gospel, teaches that true blesseds are the poor in spirit, the non-violent, the meek, those who work for peace and justice. This is the force that changes the world! This is the Word that gives strength and that can change the world. There is no other way to change the world.
The Word of Christ wants to reach everyone, especially those who live in the peripheries of existence, that they may find in him the centre of their lives and the source of hope. And we, who have had the grace to receive this Word of Life—it is a grace to receive the Word of God—we are called to go, to step out of our fences and, with missionary zeal, to bring to everyone the mercy, tenderness and friendship of God. This work belongs to everyone but in a special way to you, priests: bring mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy, in the sacraments, in listening, so that the people of God can find in you merciful men, like Jesus.
At the same time, each parish and each ecclesial reality must become a sanctuary for those seeking God and a welcoming home for the poor, the elderly and those in need. To go and to welcome: this is how the heart of Mother Church, and the heart of all her children, beats. Go, welcome. Go, seek. Go, bring love, mercy and tenderness.
When hearts open to the Gospel, the world begins to change and humanity rises again! If we welcome, and live every day, the Word of Jesus, we rise with him.
This Lent, as we walk towards Easter, this message echoes in the Church: that in all the people of God is rekindled the hope of rising with Christ, our Saviour. May the grace of this Easter not come in vain for the people of God in this city! May the grace of the Resurrection be welcomed by each of you, so that Naples is full of the hope of Christ, the Lord! Hope, open to hope. I say to everyone, especially to you young people: open yourselves to the power of the Risen Jesus and you will bear the fruits of new life in this city—the fruits of sharing, reconciliation, service, brotherhood. Allow yourselves to be enveloped, embraced by his mercy, by the mercy of Jesus that only Jesus can bring.
Dear Neapolitans, be open to hope and do not allow hope to be stolen from you! Do not give in to the lure of easy money or dishonest income. This may be bread for today but hunger for tomorrow. It cannot bring you anything. React firmly to organizations that exploit and corrupt the young, the poor and the weak, with the cynical drug trade and other crimes. Do not allow hope to be stolen from you. Do not allow your youth to be exploited by these people.
May corruption and delinquency not disfigure the face of this beautiful city! Moreover, may it not disfigure the joy of your Neapolitan hearts. To criminals and all their accomplices, today as a brother, I repeat: convert to love and justice! Allow yourselves to find the mercy of God! Know that Jesus is looking for you to embrace you, to love you more. With the grace of God, who forgives all, it is possible to return to an honest life. Even the tears of the mothers of Naples, mixed with those of Mary, the heavenly Mother invoked in Piedigrotta and in many churches of Naples, ask this of you. These tears melt the hardness of hearts and lead all back on the path of goodness.
Today, spring begins, and spring brings hope. It is a time of hope. And it is time for redemption for Naples: this is my wish and my prayer for a city that has so much spiritual, cultural and human potential, and above all a great capacity to love. The authorities, institutions, various social realities and citizens, united and in accord, can build a better future. The future of Naples is not to be resigned and to fold in on itself—this is not your future—but the future of Naples is to open itself up with trust to the world. In the mercy of Christ, who makes all things new, this city can find the strength to go forward with hope, strength for so many lives, so many families and communities. To hope is already to resist evil. To hope is to see the world through the eyes and heart of God. To hope is to bet on the mercy of God, who is Father and always forgives and forgives everything.
God, the source of our joy and the reason for our hope, lives in our cities. God lives in Naples. God lives in Naples. May his grace and his blessing sustain you on your journey in faith, in charity and in hope, your good intentions and your plans for moral and social redemption. We have altogether proclaimed Jesus as Lord. I would like everyone to repeat it again, three times. (Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord!) And may Mary accompany you!