‘Don’t close door to immigrants’: Pope slams ‘corruption’ addressing crowds in Naples, Italy

Pope Francis celebrates a mass in Plebiscito square during his pastoral visit in Naples March 21, 2015. (Reuters / Stefano Rellandini)
Hundreds of people have come to listen to Pope Francis in Naples, Italy. The pontiff slammed the mafia and corruption adding that the country’s problems also included shutting out immigrants and making people redundant.

“How much corruption there is in the world! It is a word that if we study it a bit, is bad, no? Because corruption is a dirty thing! … But it also stinks, corruption stinks! A corrupt society stinks!”saidPope Francis addressing the crowd in Naples.

The 78-year-old pontiff was visiting Scampia, one of the most crime-ridden areas in Italy’s southern city. He was met by crowds of children and young people. Up to 800,000 people were expected to turn up during the day to greet the Pope.

READ MORE: Pope Francis ‘excommunicates’ Italian mafia

“We all have the opportunity to be corrupt, none of us can say, ‘I'll never be corrupt’,” Francis went on.

“But, tell me, if we close the door to immigrants, if we take away people’s work and their dignity, what do you call this? It's called corruption!” he said in his mostly impromptu speech.

Migrants disembark from a navy ship in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta (Reuters / Antonio Parrinello)

By January 1, 2014, the number of foreign residents in Italy had reached almost 5 million people. The majority of migrants came from Romania, Morocco, Albania and China.

The numbers, however, exclude illegal immigrants, whose numbers are difficult to determine. The government has been hard-pressed to deal with the situation and has called on the EU to intervene.

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In November, Italy ended its yearlong Mare Nostrum operation, which had saved more than 150,000 migrants who embarked on the dangerous sea crossing from North Africa to Europe. It came as the EU started taking responsibility for a more modest rescue operation.

The Catholic leader called corruption merely a temptation and “it is slipping… into an easy business, into delinquency, into criminality, into the exploitation of people.”

Although the Pope didn’t mention any mafia syndicates by name, he was most likely speaking about the Camorra, one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy.

This is not the first time the Catholic leader has slammed the mafia and corruption. Previously, he has said the Mafiosi“are excommunicated” from God and the Catholic Church.

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Pope also lunched with at least 120 inmates, who included a dozen homosexuals, transgender and AIDS sufferers, at the city’s Poggioreale prison.

Migrants are transferred to another immigration centre by a ferry boat on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa (Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi)

"Even the bars of a prison cannot separate you from God's love," he told them. "Even if you have erred, the Lord does not grow tired of showing you the way back."

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Pope Francis, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, has become extremely popular for his open-minded speeches, as well as for his noted humility and concern for the poor. In addition to speaking on an end to violence in the Middle East and eastern Ukraine, the Pope publicly apologized for the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clerics.

On several occasions, Pope Francis has lashed out against capitalism and its destructive influence of humanity. He also said he is considering embracing homosexual believers, as well as partially accepting same-sex and other religiously unsanctioned partnerships.