Pope Francis has kicked off his visit to the Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio in the Calabrian province of Cosenza, with his first stop being a prison visit.
The Pope’s schedule for his day trip to Calabria, Italy’s southernmost region before the island of Sicily, includes a public Mass as well as visiting the incarcerated, ill, poor and elderly.
At 7:30 a.m. the Pope’s helicopter took off from the Vatican and landed at about 9 a.m. in Castrovillari in Calabria, where the Holy Father first visited the Rosetta Sisca penitentiary of Castrovillari.
Landing in the square next to the prison, the Pope was welcomed by Bishop Nunzio Galantino, bishop emeritus of the diocese and secretary general of the Italian Episcopal Conference, and by the mayor of the city, Domenico Lo Polito.
The Pope walked a few hundred yards to reach the prison where he would meet with detainees, prison staff, and their families.
On his way there, families, children, elderly, and various other participants welcomed the smiling Pontiff, who kissed babies, greeted and blessed many children, posed for “selfies,” and sipped the Argentinian beverage mate. Offering the Pope this tea from his native land has become a common occurence during Francis’ events and trips.
Cameras were not allowed into the prison. As expected, the Holy Father’s remarks included off the cuff elements, rather than the originally prepared script.
Addressing the more than 200 detainees present, the Holy Father focused on the theme of forgiveness, saying “I too have my mistakes and I have to do penance.” He reminded them that God is always there, waiting for his people.
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