Monday, June 23, 2014
What a weekend! Pope Francis excommunicated members of organized crime on Saturday and, a day later, said torture is a mortal sin!

During his visit to Calabria on Saturday, Pope Francis uttered some extraordinarily strong words about organized crime, saying it is the adoration of evil and disdain for the common good, and excommunicating those who participate in it. And just a day later, Sunday at the Angelus, he spoke out against torture, saying it is a mortal sin, a very grave sin.

I was asked to do the commentary for EWTNs coverage of the papal Mass in Sibari, in the diocese of Cassano allJonio, and thus did some research in preceding days on how the Holy Fathers daylong visit to the diocese would unfold, I looked for color material and, in particular, looked for specifics on the Mass. The Popes homily was online, but under embargo, in a timely fashion and I was thus able to translate it well before the start of Mass.

There were unfortunately some audio problems during the first part of the Mass but the audio of my commentary returned just before the homily. I had the written copy in front of me the original in black print and my translation in blue and listened attentively in my earpiece to what the Pope was saying in Italian so that I could the read the translation on air.

At one point, what worries every translator happened, that is, the Pope began speaking off-the-cuff. As you undoubtedly know, Francis is very prone to extemporaneous remarks!

I had to listen very carefully and translate what I heard, knowing full well that while I am speaking, I might lose a word or two of what the Pope is saying. When I do such translations, I have a renewed sense of awe of people who are professional simultaneous translators as they are usually never more than five words behind the speaker! When it is a question of of-the-cuff remarks, my style is to wait and hear an entire sentence and then translate. It works fairly well.

In any event, when I heard the Popes actual words, I - and apparently the 200,000 faithful in attendance at the Mass was stunned and hoped I had translated accurately. Did he just say members of the ndrangeta were excommunicated? He did indeed!

I have to admit that in some fashion, I did expect the Pope to speak out against organized crime during his trip. After all, he was right in the back yard of the Ndrangeta. Organized crime has different names in Italy: in Naples and environs it is known as the Camorra, in Calabria, it is the ndrangeta and in Sicily it is the familiar Mafia.

And now, some background on the Holy Fathers trip to Calabria:

Saturdays trip was Pope Francis 4th within Italy: In 2013, he visited Lampedusa (July), Assisi (October) and Cagliari (September). The region of Calabria in southern Italy is known for its high rate of criminality and, in fact, January marked a horrific event when a three-year-old child was shot and burned to death in a car, along with his grandfather, in what was blamed on drug turf wars among local organised crime clans. Several days later, in Rome, at the Angelus, Pope Francis expressed horror at the boy's killing.

The Holy Fathers schedule Saturday called for departing the Vatican by helicopter at 7:30 for Castrovillari where he was welcomed by Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano allJonio. The theme of the trip was, I come to ask for forgivenes. The trip was Pope Francis way of apologizing for having recently appointed Bishop Galantino as general secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference, knowing that the bishop won't have the same amount of time to dedicate to his diocese.

After his arrival, the Pope walked to the Rosetta Sisca penitentiary where he met with and addressed nearly 200 men and women detainees, prison staff and their families. He told them, I hope that for every one of you here, this time will not be wasted, but that it can instead become valuable time during which you may ask for and obtain this grace from God. In this way, first of all you will contribute to improving yourselves, but at the same time also the community, as, for better and worse, our actions influence others and the whole of the human family, He imparted his blessing, and said, And please, I ask you to pray for me, because I to make my errors and must do penance. Thank you.

Subsequent events included a visit to a center for palliative care for the terminally ill, a meeting at the diocesan cathedral with clergy, and lunch in the John Paul I Seminary where he shared a meal with the poor who are cared for by the local Caritas chapter and with young people of the Mauro Rostagno residential therapeutic rehabilitation center. At 2 p.m., the Pope visited the Casa Serena residence, a religious home for the elderly.


On his way to Piana di Sibari for Mass at 4 pm, the Pope stopped near the church of San Giuseppe where, last March 3, Fr. Lazzaro Longobardi, pastor of St. Raphael the Archangel parish in Sibari, was murdered. Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference, described him as a martyr to charity.

Piana di Sibari is the largest plain in Calabria and a center for tourism and economic resources. More than 200,000 faithful from Calabria and neighboring regions attended the Mass, though the 33,000 seats were earmarked for faithful from the diocese of Cassano allJonio.

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of Corpus Domini and commented that, whereas on Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Corpus Domini is a feast primarily of thanksgiving and adoration. He said, Indeed, the procession with the Blessed Sacrament is traditional on this day. Adoring Jesus Christ and walking with Him. These are the two inseparable aspects of this feast day that mark the entire nlife of the Christian people: a people who adore God and a people who walk, who do not stay in one place, who walk!

First of all, said Francis, we are people who adore God. We adore God Who is love, Who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him!

Then, using words not in his published text, the Holy Father said: When, instead, we substitute adoration of the Lord with adoration of money, the pathway opens to sin, to personal interest and abuse; when one no longer adores God, the Lord, one becomes an adorer of evil, like those who live through dishonesty and violence. Your land, so beautiful, knows the signs and the consequences of this sin. The 'ndrangheta is this: adoration of evil and disdain for the common good. We must fight this evil and expel it. We must say no! he exclaimed. The Church, who is so committed to educating consciences, must make increasing efforts to ensure that good may prevail. We ask this of our boys and girls, our young people in need of hope. To be able to respond to these needs, faith can help us. Those who follow this path of evil in life, as the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God: they are excommunicated!

Today, continued Francis, as applause to his remarks subsided, we confess with our gaze turned to the Corpus Domini, to the Sacrament on the altar. And for this faith we renounce Satan and all his seductions; we renounce the idols of money, vanity, pride, power, violence. We Christians do not wish to worship anything or anyone else in this world other than Jesus Christ, Who is present in the Holy Eucharist.

Today, as bishop of Rome, I am here to confirm you not only in faith but also in charity, to accompany you and encourage you on your path with Jesus Love. I extend my support to all the pastors and faithful of the Church in Calabria, courageously committed to evangelization and promoting styles of life and initiatives centered on the needs of the poor and the least among us. And I extend this also to the civil authorities who endeavor to live their political and administrative commitment for what it is, a service to the common good. I encourage all of you to bear witness to concrete solidarity with your brothers and sisters, especially with those most in need of justice, hope and tenderness.

Francis thank God for all the signs of hope that can be seen in families, parishes, associations, and ecclesial movements in Calabria, and urged young people not to be robbed of their hope as, adoring Jesus in your hearts and staying united with Him you will be able to oppose evil, injustice and violence with the strength of goodness, truth, and beauty.

The Body of the Lord makes us one entity, one family, the People of God gathered around Jesus, the Bread of life. What I have said to the young, I say to all of you: if you worship Christ and walk behind Him and with Him, your diocesan Church and your parishes will grow in faith and charity, in the joy of evangelization. You will be a Church in which fathers, mothers, priests, religious, catechists, children, the elderly, and the young all walk one next to the other, they support each other, they help each other, and they love each other like brothers, especially in moments of difficulty. May Mary, our mother, the Eucharistic woman whom you venerate in many shrines, especially in that of Castrovillari, precede you in this pilgrimage of faith.


Sunday at the Angelus, Pope Francis addressed a huge crowd in a very hot St. Peters Square, noting that Italy and many other countries on Sunday celebrate the feast day of the Body and Blood of Christ, Corpus Domini or Corpus Christi, when the ecclesial community gathers around the Eucharist to adore the most precious gift that Jesus left the Church.

Reflecting on the Eucharist, he said, Whenever we participate in Mass and are nourished by the body of Christ, the presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit works within us; it shapes our hearts, it communicates inner attitudes that transform within us into modes of behavior in accordance with the Gospel. . The Eucharist helps the Christian lifestyle to mature in us. Christ's charity, received with an open heart changes us, transforms us, makes us capable of loving not according to a human measure, which is always limited, but according to God's measure, and God's measure is without measure.

And then, he said, we become able to love even those who do not love us, and it is not easy. If we know that a person does not love us we tend not to like that person. But no! We must love those who do not love us! We must oppose evil with good, we must forgive, share, welcome others. Thanks to Jesus and his Spirit, even our life becomes 'bread broken' for our brothers. And, living in this way, we discover true joy! The joy of making oneself a gift, to reciprocate the great gift that we have first received, without any merit on our part.

After the Angelus, the Holy Father pointed out that Thursday, June 26 marks the United Nations' Day for Victims of Torture. In this circumstance, I repeat my strong condemnation of all forms of torture and I invite Christians to make every effort to collaborate in its abolition and to support the victims and their families. Torturing people is a mortal sin, a very grave sin.

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