In a letter responding to a message sent to the Pope by inmates ahead of his trip, the Holy Father expressed his profound appreciation for their words and for their promise to pray for him.

He also encouraged them to find encouragement in the fact that the first evangelizer of Malta -- St. Paul -- was a prisoner who shared their situation.

The Holy Father noted that despite his chains, Paul "had the interior liberty to 'rejoice in the Lord'" because nobody could separate him from the love of God.

Benedict XVI expressed his spiritual closeness and sent them his blessing "as a sign of the strength and peace in the Lord."

The Pope also noted that in his visit to Malta he recalled them in a special way, as well as all those who suffer -- "the sick, the elderly, those who are forced to remain in their homes, and those, like you, who are imprisoned."