PALERMO, Sicily — Pope Francis appealed to Mafiosi to renounce their quests for power and money as he visited Sicily on Saturday to honor a priest slain by mob henchmen for trying to protect youths from the evil clutches of organized crime.

The daylong trip by Francis to the Mediterranean island where the Cosa Nostra is rooted marked the 25th anniversary of the Rev. Giuseppe “Pino” Puglisi’s assassination. Puglisi was declared a martyr by the Vatican and beatified in 2013, the last formal step before possible sainthood.

Francis paid tribute to the priest, who worked to keep unemployed youths in a poor neighborhood of Palermo from turning to local Mafia bosses for jobs like pushing drugs. The papal pilgrimage came in counterpoint to the latest revelations about priests and bishops who sexually abused children or connived to protect the abusers in various nations, disclosures battering the highest levels of the church and testing the faith of rank-and-file Catholics.

Thousands of people cheered Francis at an open air Mass held at an esplanade along the port city’s waterfront. “Let’s renew the church,” read a large banner carried by young people as Francis was driven by.

Pressure is building on Francis to say what he knew about the sexual misconduct of U.S. prelate Theodore McCarrick, who recently was stripped of his cardinal’s rank.

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