All of us need rehabilitation, Pope Francis reminds prisoners

Pope Francis greets pilgrims during the General Audience held Jan. 8, 2014. Credit: Kyle Burkhart/CNA.

At a visit Saturday with the imprisoned in the Italian city of Isernia, Pope Francis stated the need of every human person for rehabilitation, and conversion to God.

“To walk the way of rehabilitation, this is something we all need to do. All. We all make mistakes in life. And all of us must ask forgiveness for these mistakes and make a journey of rehabilitation, to not make any more,” the pope said July 5 at Isernia's Casa Circondariale prison.

“Some do this at home, at their workplace; others, like you, in a prison," he said. "But all, all … anyone who says he does not need this way of rehabilitation is a liar! We all make mistakes in life, and also, all are sinners.”

He emphasized that when we turn to the Lord to be forgiven our sins and mistakees, he “never tires of forgiving. He tell us: 'Come back this way, it will be good for you to do this.'”

“And he helps us,” Pope Francis stressed. “And his way of rehabilitation, is a way we all must walk.”

The visit to the Isernia prison was part of Pope Francis' one-day pastoral visit to Molise, a region of sourthern Italy. “This is the motto of this visit,” he told them: “God never tires of forgiving.”

He encouraged them to not become static, but to take a step each day in this seeking of God, who remembers us always. With God's faithful love, “hope does not delude us.”

The suffering consequent to sin, Pope Francis said, purifies us, because it is “suffering with hope … (God) forgives us, he takes us by the hand and helps us to move forward in this way of rehabilitation.”

Imprisonment, he said, is not so important as “what God does with us, taking us by the hand and helping us to move forward.” He thanked the prisoners for their hospitality, and shared with them that when he meets with those in prisons, “sincerely I ask myself: why him and not me? I feel this. It is a mystery. But beginning from this sentiment, with this feeling I accompany you.”

Prior to his meeting with prisoners, Pope Francis also met with youth, to whom he similarly stressed God's forgiveness and mercy: “often we forget that God never tires of forgiving … we are the ones who tire of asking for forgiveness, but he forgives always, each time I ask him to.”

At the piazza of the Sanctuary of Castelpetroso, he told the region's youth that they should walk a path that is stable and grounded in love, rather than being static or flitting about from day to day, unfettered by ties of love and responsibility.

“Transience is not good,” he warned. “Not good, because it darkens the mind and chills the heart.”

The “culture of the temporary,” Pope Francis said, “does not provide a climate conducive to the formation of stable life choices with solid ties, built on the rock of love and responsbility, rather than the sand of emotion.”

This quest for supposed autonomy hinders making life choices with commitment and dedication, feeding a superficiliality that renders life a pointless maze rather than a journey towards a goal, he said. He dared them to aspire to love and happiness, finding the freedom that Christ offers, and having courage and hope in the face of difficulties that they should remember are “temporary and surmountable.”

He spoke about the plague of youth unemployment, urging that in solidarity, all find a solution to this problem.

“Young people have the capacity for solidarity,” he told them. “This word solidarity, is one the world does not like to hear. Some think it's a dirty word. No, it is not a dirty word, it is a Christian word: to go along with one's brother to help him overcome his problems. Be courageous, with hope and solidarity.”

Following his meeting with prisoners, Pope Francis went to the piazza of Isernia's cathedral, to meet with its citizens and especially its sick, announcing the Celestine Jubilee Year.

He began noting that in Christianity, there is no conflict between the sacred and profane: that we are both “citizens and brothers.”

He spoke of both St. Celestine V and St. Francis of Assisi, both of whom emphasized God's mercy and how that mercy renews the world.

“These saints felt the need to give the people the greatest thing, the greatest wealth: the Father's mercy and forgiveness.”

The Jubilee Year, he noted, is a time for mercy, and love as a “force of purification” of consciences and to renew social relations, including the creation of an economy centered on the person and the family rather than money and profit.

“We believe that this way is good for everyone, it is the way that really brings us closer to justice and peace,” he said. “But we also know that we are sinners, that we ourselves are always tempted not to follow this path, and to conform to the mentality of the world, the mentality of power and wealth.”

“So we rely on the mercy of God, and we are committed to fulfill, by his grace, fruits of conversion and works of mercy. These two things: to repent and do works of mercy. This is the leitmotif of this year, this Celestine Jubilee Year.”
 


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