Below is a translation of Pope Francis’ words to detainees when he had lunch with the prisoners of the Giuseppe Salvia Detention Center of Poggioreale in Naples, during his one-day pastoral visit to Naples and Pompeii today:
I am happy to be among you on the occasion of my visit to Naples. I would like to thank Claudio and Pasquale who spoke on behalf of everyone. This meeting allows me to express my closeness to you, and I do, bringing the Word and the love of Jesus, Who came to earth to make our hope full and who died on the Cross to save all of us.
Sometimes you feel disappointed, discouraged, abandoned by everyone, but God does not forget his children, never abandons them! He is always at our side, especially in times of trial; The Father is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2,4), who always turns to us with His serene and benevolent gaze, always waiting for us with open arms. This is a certainty that gives comfort and hope, especially in difficult and sad times. Although we did wrong in life, the Lord never tires of showing us the way back and the encounter with him. Jesus’ love for each of us is a source of consolation and hope. It is a fundamental certainty for us: nothing can separate us from the love of God! Not even the bars of a prison. The only thing that can separate us from Him is our sin; but if we acknowledge and confess with sincere repentance, that sin just becomes a meeting place Him, because He is mercy.
Dear brothers, I know your painful situations: I receive many letters – some really moving – from prisons around the world. The prisoners are too often kept in conditions unworthy of the human person, and then [they] fail to reintegrate into society. But thank God there are also leaders, chaplains, educators, pastoral workers who know how to stay close to you in the right way. And there are some good experiences and meaningful input. We have to work on this, to develop these positive experiences, they do grow a different attitude in the civil community and also in the community of the Church. At the basis of this commitment is the conviction that love can always transform the human person. And then a place of marginalization, as may be the prison in the negative sense, can then become a place of inclusion and stimulus for the whole society, because it is more just, more attentive to people.
I invite you to live every day, every moment in the presence of God, to whom the future of the world and of man belong. Here is the Christian hope: the future is in God’s hands! The story makes sense because it is inhabited by the goodness of God. Therefore, even in the midst of so many problems, even serious ones, we do not lose our hope in the infinite mercy of God and his providence. With this sure hope, let’s get ready for Easter now approaching, directing much our lives to the Lord and keeping alive in us the flame of his love.[Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]