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‘You are not alone’: Pope Francis meets women who escaped the Mafia

Pope Francis meets with a group of women who escaped criminal organizations in Italy on Oct. 30, 2023, at the Vatican. / Credit: Vatican Media

Vatican City, Oct 30, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Monday encouraged a group of women who escaped criminal organizations in Italy to keep fighting despite fear and to know they are not alone.

“You, dear women, were born and raised in contexts corrupted by Mafia crime, and you have decided to come out of it. I bless this choice of yours, and I encourage you to move forward,” he said during an audience in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on the morning of Oct. 30.

“I imagine that there are moments of fear, of bewilderment; this is normal. In these moments think of the Lord Jesus who walks by your side,” he said. “You are not alone; keep fighting.”

The women were accompanied by Father Luigi Ciotti. The 78-year-old Italian priest is the founder of two associations: Gruppo Abele helps those with drug and other addictions and Libera combats the abuses of criminal organizations in Italy and around the world.

Pope Francis meets with Father Luigi Ciotti, who accompanied a group of women who escaped criminal organizations in Italy, on Oct. 30, 2023, at the Vatican. Credit: Vatican Media

In the audience, Pope Francis recalled that some of Jesus’ disciples were women.

“Those women — as well as the rest of the men — were not perfect people, they were not ‘angelic’: They were women tried by life, sometimes ‘infected’ by evil,” he said.

Francis said Jesus had compassion for those women and healed them from their sin. They were freed, he continued, “not by magic” but by walking with the Lord and sharing in his cross and resurrection.

“This gives us freedom!” he underlined.

Pope Francis recommended that the women keep a pocket-sized copy of the Gospels with them wherever they go and read a little bit every day.

“Every day read a passage from it, quietly, and imagine that you are with him, with the Lord, in the midst of the disciples,” he said, adding that he would ensure Ciotti provided a copy of the Gospels for each of them.

Jesus, the pope said, “walks with us every day on the road of life. His cross gives meaning to our crosses and his resurrection is a source of hope.”

“I accompany you with prayer for you and for your loved ones, especially for your children,” he concluded. “May the Lord bless you and may Our Lady protect you.”

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