CTV screenshot Pope at Prison in Ciudad Juarez

'Those Who Have Experienced Hell Can Become Prophets,' Says Pope

Meeting Prisoners in Ciudad Juarez Penitentiary, Reminds That What’s Done Is Done, But You Can Remake Your Lives

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No matter what you have done, God’s mercy waits to embrace you. Even though you can’t reverse the past and may have ‘experienced hell,’ you still can be a ‘prophet’ and remake your life.
Pope Francis stressed this during his meeting with prisoners this morning in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
He reminded them to realize that Jesus urges us to have certainty that His mercy ‘embraces everyone’ and is found everywhere.
«There is no place beyond the reach of his mercy, no space or person it cannot touch,» he said.
The Pope exhorted them to combat violence and crime, and that which leads to this vicious cycle.
Divine Mercy reminds us that prisons are an indication of the kind of society we are, he noted. «In many cases,» he said, «they are a sign of the silence and omissions which have led to a throwaway culture, a symptom of a culture that has stopped supporting life, of a society that has abandoned its children.»
Reintegration happens before, not after
«Mercy,’ reminds us that reintegration does not begin here within these walls; rather it begins before, it begins “outside”, in the streets of the city.
Reintegration or rehabilitation, he noted, begins by creating a system «which we could call social health,» which is a society «which seeks not to cause sickness, polluting relationships in neighborhoods, schools, town squares, the streets, homes and in the whole of the social spectrum.»
The Pope called for a a system of social health that promotes a culture which acts and seeks to prevent situations and pathways «that end in damaging and impairing the social fabric.»
At times, the Pope observed, it may seem that prisons are intended more to prevent people from committing crimes, rather than promote the process of rehabilitation that allows us to address the social, psychological and family problems which caused a person to act in a certain way.
Open Door to Future
«Celebrating the Jubilee of Mercy with you means learning not to be prisoners of the past, of yesterday, » the Pope said, noting, «It means learning to open the door to the future, to tomorrow; it means believing that things can change.»
The Holy Year, he also noted, means «inviting you to lift up your heads and to work in order to gain this space of longed-for freedom.»
What Is Done Is Done, But He Makes All New
«We know that we cannot turn back, we know that what is done, is done,» Francis noted, explaining that this was why he wanted to celebrate the Jubilee Year with them, «because it does not exclude the possibility of writing a new story and moving forward.»
He acknowledged how they suffer the pain of failure and remorse for their actions, and seek to remake their lives in the midst of solitude.
«You have known the power of sorrow and sin, and have not forgotten that within your reach is the power of the resurrection, the power of divine mercy which makes all things new.
«Now, this mercy,» he continued, «can reach you in the hardest and most difficult of places, but such occasions can also perhaps bring truly positive results.»
The Argentine Pope reminded them that from inside this prison, they must work hard to change the situations which create the most exclusion. Francis told them to speak with their loved ones, tell them of their experiences, in order to help them put an end to this cycle of violence and exclusion.
«The one who has suffered the greatest pain, and we could say ‘has experienced hell,’ can become a prophet in society.’ Francis said.
«Work so that this society which uses people and discards them will not go on claiming victims,» he exhorted.
You Can Be ‘Signs of the Father’
The Holy Father also thanked all those who worked in the penitentiary or others like it, including directors, prison guards, and anyone who undertakes any type of work there.
«Never forget that all of you can be signs of the heart of the Father. We need one another to keep on moving forward.»
Before giving his blessing, the Pope said he would like all present to join him in a moment of silence.
«From the depths of our hearts, may each one of us ask God to help us believe in his mercy,» Pope Francis prayed, before reminding the prisoners to pray for him.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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