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Pope defends migrants, visits shroud in Turin.

TURIN, ITALY * Returning to the land of his ancestors in Northern Italy amid an economic downturn that has severely impacted people's lives, Pope Francis on June 21 exhorted laborers not to blame immigrants for their struggles.

The pope traveled some 450 miles north from Rome for a two-day visit to Turin, where he cried out anew against the global economic system and what he called an "idolatry of money"

During the meeting with laborers and entrepreneurs of the city, Francis began by exhorting them not to mistreat immigrants or accuse them for loss of work opportunities.

"It makes you cry to see the spectacle in these days of human beings treated like merchandise," the pope forcefully added to his prepared remarks, speaking of the continuing crisis of migrants entering Italy from Northern Africa and the Middle East.

"Immigration augments the competition, but migrants are not complicit because they are victims of inequity --of this throwaway economy and of wars," he cried to the crowd.

Francis then called on those present to "say no" to four things: the "throwaway" economy, idolatry of money, corruption, and "inequity that causes violence."

"In this situation, which is global and complex, we do not have to just wait for the 'upswing' " of the market, Francis said. "Work is fundamental ... and it is necessary that the whole society, all its components, collaborate so that there may be work worthy of men and women for all."

"This requires an economic model that is not organized for the purpose of capital and of production but rather for the common good," said the pope.

Francis also offered a message of encouragement in tough economic times and of embracing the role of both young and old in forging a path to the future.

The pope was responding in the meeting with laborers to three testimonies of local workers and entrepreneurs. Thanking them each for mentioning the role of family in their lives, Francis also asked those present not to forget the part of children and grandparents in reinvigorating a society.

"Children are the promise of going ahead," Francis said. "The elderly are the richness of memory."

"A crisis cannot be overcome--you cannot exit the crisis--without the young people, children and grandparents," he said. "Strength for the future but memory of the past that indicates where we are going."

Francis also spent time June 21 praying before the Shroud of Turin, the famous burial cloth that contains an image of what appears to be a crucified man that some believe was Jesus.

The pope sat in dark and silence before the shroud for about seven minutes, before walking forward to briefly touch it with his right hand.

The shroud, which some claim is a forgery, has been in special exhibition since April for the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. John Bosco, a 19th-century Piedmont priest who founded the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Francis mentioned the saint in his speech with the workers, saying his methods of educating youth showed the importance of preventive measures to prevent social conflicts.

Francis also visited a historic church in Turin dedicated to the Virgin Mary The church, known as the Santuario della Consolata, contains an icon of Mary that attracts thousands of pilgrims a year for its supposed healing power.

The Catholic community celebrates the anniversary of the first healing miracle every June 20 with a procession with the icon through Turin.

Speaking in his homily, Francis focused on explaining God's love toward humanity God loves humans, the pope said, with a faithful love, a love that recreates all, and a love that is stable and secure.

"There is always the risk of forgetting that great love that the Lord has shown us," he said. "Even we Christians run the risk of becoming paralyzed by fear of the future and searching for security in things that pass, or in a model of closed society that tends to exclude more than include."

Proposing another way of life, Francis said: "We can live the joy of the Gospel by practicing mercy: We can share the difficulties of many people, of families, especially of the most fragile and marked by the economic crisis."

Caption: Pope Francis watches as a cross is carried by young people in Turin, Italy, June 21.

[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@]


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Title Annotation:WORLD; Pope Francis in Turin, Italy
Author:McElwee, Joshua J.
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Jul 3, 2015
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