Pope Fran­cis re­news at­tack on mafia in re­gion scarred by toxic waste

His Ho­li­ness Pope Fran­cis has stepped in to high­light the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment dur­ing a ser­mon in Naples. The area has long been blighted with the il­le­gal dump­ing of toxic waste that has left the once fer­tile ground bar­ren and led to a

Outlook - - CULTURE - By James Macken­zie

Pope Fran­cis called for na­ture to be pro­tected from crim­i­nal abuse last month dur­ing a visit in the south­ern Ital­ian town of Caserta, near Naples, in a re­gion long blighted by il­le­gal toxic waste dumps and the per­va­sive grip of the Camorra mafia.

Dur­ing a tele­vised open air mass be­fore around 200,000 peo­ple, Fran­cis said that the love of God meant re­spect­ing life, the en­vi­ron­ment and na­ture.

"I know that you suf­fer for th­ese things," he said in an im­promptu re­marks dur­ing his homily in front of the Reg­gia di Caserta, the for­mer palace of the old Bour­bon kings of Naples.

"It is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in

this beau­ti­ful re­gion of yours which re­quires be­ing pro­tected and con­served, it re­quires us to have the courage to say no to any form of cor­rup­tion and il­le­gal­ity," he said to ap­plause from the crowd.

"We all know what the name of th­ese forms of cor­rup­tion and il­le­gal­ity are," he said.

While less ex­plicit than his fierce at­tack on the mafia dur­ing a visit to Cal­abria last month, when he said those who fol­lowed the mafia's "path of evil" were "ex­com­mu­ni­cated", the set­ting of his words left no doubt of his tar­get.

Now blighted by crime, cor­rup­tion and chron­i­cally high un­em­ploy­ment, the re­gion around Naples, known in an­cient times as "Cam­pa­nia felix", should be one of the most fer­tile ar­eas of Italy due to the rich vol­canic soil from Mount Ve­su­vius.

In­stead, it has be­come no­to­ri­ous for the "terra dei fuochi", or the "fire coun­try", pol­luted for decades by un­con­trolled dump­ing and burnoffs of toxic waste that have been blamed for un­usu­ally high lev­els of can­cers and other dis­eases.

Caserta it­self lies just out­side the so-called "Tri­an­gle of Death", where the mor­tal­ity rates are at their high­est, but it is con­sid­ered one of the strongholds of the Camorra, the Cam­pa­nia mafia, which is be­hind much of the il­le­gal waste dis­posal.

"This mag­nif­i­cent re­gion has been par­tic­u­larly hurt by so many de­posits of waste from other parts of Italy and Europe which cause death and dis­tress," Gio­vanni D'Alise, the bishop of Caserta, said dur­ing the mass. " And there is no short­age of crim­i­nal­ity and cor­rup­tion in our re­gion," he said.

The Ar­gentina-born Fran­cis has re­peat­edly at­tacked the Ital­ian mafia, launch­ing his strong­est con­dem­na­tion dur­ing last month's visit to Cal­abria, home of the group known as "Ndrangheta", one of the most feared crime syn­di­cates in the world.

The pope's trip to Caserta, where he cel­e­brated mass in honor of the town's pa­tron Saint Anne, was orig­i­nally in­tended as a pri­vate visit to see a Pen­te­costal pas­tor he be­friended in Ar­gentina.

Pope Fran­cis leads a mass at St Peter's Basil­ica in the Vat­i­can.

Moun­tains of un­col­lected trash in Pia­nura, a sub­urb of Naples, near a con­demned dump which was closed in 1994 be­cause of public health con­cerns. Plans by the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment to de­ploy troops to help rid the Naples re­gion of moun­tains of rub­bish have won a cau­tious wel­come from res­i­dents and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists as ten­sions eased at a toxic dump that has seen a se­ries of vi­o­lent protests.

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