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Beware of gangs, Pope urges youths in El Salvador

Pope Francis has warned adolescents in El Salvador to ‘beware of gangs’ during a video conference call with young people in the violence-wracked country.

Speaking to a 15-year-old boy and dozens of his classmates in the town of Soyapango outside San Salvador, the Pope urged the youngsters to steer clear of the violent groups that are plaguing the Central American nation.

The Holy Father told Gerardo Ernesto Mancia and some 30 of his schoolmates to focus instead on their studies, sports and to cultivate an interest in culture.

“Be very careful when there are groups that seek out destruction, who search for war, who don’t know how to work on a team,” the Pope told the youngsters, warning in particular that they should ‘beware of gangs.’

Extortion, murder and rape are commonplace in El Salvador, where 1910 homicides—mostly committed by gangs—occurred between in the first half of this year according to official figures.

Gerardo and his classmates spoke with the Pope for a minute and half via a laptop installed in their school. The teen, overcome with emotion, managed to tell the Pope ‘thank you’ before the conversation ended.

Talking with the pontiff was ‘something extraordinary,’ said the youth, who said he hopes to work in the hotel industry.

The video chat was organised by the Futbol Forever foundation whose Argentine director, Alejandro Gutman, recently met the Pope and explained the initiative. In El Salvador, the organisation works with 4000 youth in Soyapango and Tonacatepeque public schools, encouraging students to turn to football rather than violence.

 

 

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