Pope Francis Holds Mass for 1,000 Prisoners

via AP:

Pope Francis held a special Jubilee Mass for prisoners in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday, telling them that all people “have made mistakes” and urging them to never give up hope in God’s mercy….

Wearing green robes and a white skull cap, Francis stood before a congregation made up of some 1,000 prisoners from 12 countries and their families, as well as prison chaplains and volunteers. The event was part of the Vatican’s Holy Year of Mercy, which comes to an end later this month.

Here are some highlights from his homily via Vatican News:

Hope is a gift of God.  It is placed deep within each human heart in order to shed light on this life, so often troubled and clouded by so many situations that bring sadness and pain.  We need to nourish the roots of our hope so that they can bear fruit; primarily, the certainty of God’s closeness and compassion, despite whatever evil we have done.  There is no corner of our heart that cannot be touched by God’s love.  Whenever someone makes a mistake, the Father’s mercy is all the more present, awakening repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Today we celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy for you and with you, our brothers and sisters who are imprisoned.  Mercy, as the expression of God’s love, is something we need to think about more deeply.  Certainly, breaking the law involves paying the price, and losing one’s freedom is the worst part of serving time, because it affects us so deeply.  All the same, hope must not falter.  Paying for the wrong we have done is one thing, but another thing entirely is the “breath” of hope, which cannot be stifled by anyone or anything.  Our heart always yearns for goodness….

Sometimes, a certain hypocrisy leads to people considering you only as wrongdoers, for whom prison is the sole answer.  We don’t think about the possibility that people can change their lives; we put little trust in rehabilitation.  But in this way we forget that we are all sinners and often, without being aware of it, we too are prisoners.  At times we are locked up within our own prejudices or enslaved to the idols of a false sense of wellbeing.  At times we get stuck in our own ideologies or absolutize the laws of the market even as they crush other people.  At such times, we imprison ourselves behind the walls of individualism and self-sufficiency, deprived of the truth that sets us free.  Pointing the finger against someone who has made mistakes cannot become an alibi for concealing our own contradictions.