ROME — The mafia destroys hope and tramples people’s rights, Pope Francis told a family whose young daughter was seriously injured during a Camorra hit job in Naples.
The pope met and prayed with the girl, now 6 years old, during a private meeting at his residence June 7, according to Vatican News.
The girl recited the Hail Mary and the Guardian Angel prayer, and then the pope “took her hand and they prayed together. It was a very emotional moment,” said Tania Esposito, the mother of Noemi Staiano, who was shot in May 2019 in a large public square in the middle of the city while she was with her grandmother, who was grazed by another stray bullet.
Two brothers, Armando and Antonio Del Re, were handed an 18- and 14-year-prison-sentence, respectively, for the shooting in which they attempted to assassinate a rival clan member during an ambush.
The girl, who was 4 at the time, was gravely injured with a perforated lung, cracked ribs and damage to her spine. Esposito told Vatican News June 8 that her daughter will still need further operations to reconstruct her spine and must wear a neck and body brace until she is at least 18.
Esposito said they wanted to meet the pope as soon as their daughter was out of danger, calling her recovery “a miracle.”
She said they brought the pope a rosary and a statuette of the pope. Seeing the statuette, the pope asked the child, “Who is this guy?” to which she replied, “It’s you!” according to the mother.
Mixed in with the lighthearted moments, the mother and father told the pope about the shooting and the ongoing problem of the mafia.
“The pope said just a few words, but they have remained in my heart, ‘The mafia destroys hope, tramples rights, but God will always follow behind your beautiful child,'” she said, adding that they prayed all together, including the father, Fabio Staiano, and Archbishop Domenico Battaglia of Naples, who arranged the meeting.
When asked whether they had forgiven their daughter’s assailants, Esposito said, “To tell the truth, forgiveness … no. But not because we don’t want to, on the contrary, as a Christian family we are ready to forgive, but no one, none of those who hurt the child, has ever told us he was sorry. Therefore, we haven’t even had the opportunity to offer our forgiveness.
“I think, though, that Noemi has surely already forgiven them. She is a child who can teach everyone how to love, even us parents.”