Staff and residents of Casa di Leda in Rome’s Eur neighborhood had a surprise visitor late afternoon of March 2, 2018: Pope Francis.
According to the Vatican Press Office, the Holy Father left the Vatican in the company of Monsignor Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, and went to the house for detained women with small children.
The house was confiscated from organized crime and now hosts a safe house for detained women with small children. This type of structure is the first to be set up in Italy, and at present, it’s the only one of its kind.
Dr. Lillo Di Mauro, the Director of Casa di Leda, spoke to the Pope about the efforts made to set up the structure, the importance of restoring to society a repurposed area and, at the same time, developing a social project of great humanity.
“Holiness, dear Father, we are the invisible” ones. It was with these words that Dr. Di Mauro gave the welcome. “We are some of the thousands of girls and boys, children of imprisoned parents in Italian prisons, who live with them in prison or go to visit them. To defend the dignity of our imprisoned parents, we are told lies, making us believe that we are going to a college or place of work. We are searched, violated in our intimacy by the hands of unknown adults, who take away our soft toys, the poor toys, which are our friends, to open them, check them, and sometimes take off our pants to ensure that our mothers haven’t hidden drugs.”
“We are fragile flowers,” she added, “in the desert of the bureaucracy and the security measures, in the indifference of adults alienated from the awful and violent work. For many, we are statistics: 4,500 children that have a mother in prison; some 90,000 that have a detained father. Even our parents sometimes speculate about us.
“To not be pointed at, we say that our father works in fantastic and far away countries and that our mother is a queen. We become aggressive and intractable to defend ourselves, but we’re not bad, it’s the others that see us and want us so: “We are the children of detainees.”
The mothers, their little ones and the staff, who were going about their regular daily routine, were astonished to see the Pope, according to the press office.
The House is run by the Cecilia Onlus social cooperative since March 2017 and houses mothers for minor offenses and whose parenting capacity is recognized and so can continue their detention period with their children within this family-house. At present, there are five young mothers there, between the ages of 25 and 30, some of the Rom ethnic group, an Egyptian, an Italian, each one with her own child. There are also workers, educators, and volunteers of the “At Rome Together” Association. Also involved in the project is the PID (Pronto Intervento Disagio Societa Cooperative Sociale Onlus) and the Ain Karim Association. Rendering service within the structure are also the so-called “Tested,” defendants guilty of light offenses for whom detention isn’t foreseen and who can amend the punishment by doing useful work for the community.
The Holy Father was able to exchange some words with the mothers and with the boys at the House. He played with the children, offering them as a gift large Easter eggs, which were received with great joy by the children, who invited him to have a snack with them. The mothers wished to give the Pope a small gift, product of the simple activities and various jobs they do inside the House while telling him of the opportunity that was given to them to see their children grow despite the many difficulties. A stay in this structure, in fact, allows mothers to accompany or collect the children from school, or carry out useful activities to learn a skill, in view of a future reinsertion in the world of work and in society.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]