Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday denounced the "inhuman" mafia that plagues southern Italy and urged residents there to respond to the region's suffering by caring for one another and the common good.
Benedict made the comments while celebrating an open-air Mass in Lamezia Terme, in Calabria in the "toe" of boot-shaped Italy.
The region is home to the 'ndrangheta mob, which is today considered more powerful than the Sicilian Mafia and is one of the world's biggest cocaine traffickers. Calabria is also one of the poorest regions in Italy _ it has a 12 percent unemployment rate compared with a national average of 7.9 percent, and a 39 percent jobless rate for people aged 15-24.
Benedict noted the region is seismic _ "not just geologically but from the structural, behavioral and social point of view" _ and said high unemployment and Calabria's "often inhuman criminality wounds the fabric of society."
He praised Calabrians for their ability to live with such problems and a near-constant state of emergency and urged them to continue responding to the ills afflicting the region with faith and Christian values.
"Force yourselves to grow in the ability to collaborate with one another, care for one another and all the public good," he said.
It was Benedict's first visit to the region and police estimated about 40,000 people had turned out under cold, dark skies for the Mass.
The city's mayor, Gianni Speranza, welcomed Benedict but didn't gloss over the region's ills. "Welcome to Lamezia Terme, your holiness, a land of suffering," he said.
He said the region's young people needed a sign of hope that they can live without the mob and fear. "Enough with the mafia!" he added.