Pope Francis stopped by Rome’s Regina Coeli prison last week and urged the prison staff to help inmates find hope during their sentences or else their incarceration serves no purpose.
While speaking to the prison staff members on Feb. 7, the pope said both prison staff and inmates have the responsibility of looking forward to the inmate’s reintegration into society and how they can still make positive contributions from within the prison walls.
“A punishment without hope does not serve a purpose, it does not help, it arouses in one’s heart feelings of resentment, many times of revenge, and the person leaves worse than he entered,” the pope said.
During Pope Francis’ last visit at the prison, located just two miles from the Vatican, he celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper by washing the feet of a dozen inmates in 2018.
Francis praised the prison staff for their inner strength and perseverance in the “difficult task of healing the wounds of those who through their mistakes, find themselves deprived of their personal freedom.”
In doing so, he added, a prison can “truly become a place of redemption, of resurrection and change of life.”
“This attitude of closeness, which is rooted in the love of Christ, can foster trust, the awareness
andcertainty of being loved,” the pope said.
Departing from his prepared speech, Francis said he had a “sincere affection” for prisoners and those who work in prisons and said that every two weeks he calls “a group of inmates in a prison I often visited” in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“I always had the feeling when I entered the prison, ‘Why them and not me?’” the pope said. “I could have been there and instead no. The Lord has given me the grace that my sins and failings have been forgiven and not seen. I don’t know. But that question helps so much: ‘Why them and not me?’”