VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday celebrated Mass before a thousand prisoners specially invited to the Vatican, giving them a message of hope while denouncing the “hypocrisy” of society.
The event was also attended by 3,000 others including prison staff and volunteers and without any visible police presence.
The Argentine pontiff regularly meets prisoners – both in Italy and on his trips abroad – but this is the first time so many inmates were received at the Vatican.
The pontiff, recalling his visits to jail, said: “Every time I enter a prison, I ask the question ‘why them and not me?’ We all can make mistakes.”
The prisoners came from jails in Italy and Spain but 12 countries were represented including Britain, Mexico, South Africa.
He exhorted them never to lose hope.
“Hope is a gift of God,” he said. “Certainly, breaking the law involves paying the price, and losing one’s freedom is the worst part of serving time, because it affects us so deeply. All the same, hope must not falter.”
He said that incarceration was not the only means to set people back on the right path.
“Sometimes, a certain hypocrisy leads to people considering you only as wrongdoers, for whom prison is the sole answer,” he said.
“We don’t think about the possibility that people can change their lives; we put little trust in rehabilitation. But in this way we forget that we are all sinners and often, without being aware of it, we too are prisoners… locked up within our own prejudices or enslaved to the idols of a false sense of well-being.”