Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe: Prejudice in life, indifference in death

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The Independent Online

The two young Gypsy cousins, Violetta and Cristina, were offering small, cheap trinkets for sale.

With the sea just a stone's throw away, they did what all children would have done: run into the water to cool off. Instead, they ran to their deaths. The photos in the newspapers were taken when it was too late: you could just make out the feet of the two girls poking out from under a beach towel, with which someone had pitifully covered the lifeless corpses. These sad and horrible photos show us something else, however: sunbathers who continued to lie on the beach, perhaps even irritated by the sight cluttering up the sand.

It is these images which we never wanted to see of our city. We are saddened not only by the two bodies under the beach towels, but by the people who make up the backdrop, people who didn't act and didn't feel remotely concerned.

Turning the other way or minding one's own business can, at times, be more devastating than the event itself.

Indifference is not an emotion for human beings – and it should be even less so when faced with Violetta and Cristina, already scarred by a life of hardship and weakened by the prejudices that must have been difficult to bear at their age.

It is time for Naples to face up to facts. In a community so generous and rich in humanity, we don't want indifference to land us with a new – and more serious – emergency [than the rubbish crisis which submerged Naples]... The city is undoubtedly cleaner and more presentable. But the Church has the duty to look into the soul of its children.

And if it sees indifference growing, everything can become irreparably dirty. Violetta and Cristina are asking us, as they have every right, to look into the soul ... of Naples.

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe is the Archbishop of Naples