By Vatican News
Vatican City has no prison system. Which is why it works closely with the Italian Penitentiary Police, the law enforcement agency responsible for prison security, inmate safety and transportation in Italy.
When he met with administrative staff of the agency in audience on Saturday, Pope Francis summarized his message in three simple terms, beginning with “Thank you”.
“Thank you because your work is hidden, often difficult, but essential”, said the Pope. “In addition to being guardians of security, you are a close presence for those who have fallen into the nets of evil”. Pope Francis called the Prison Police “builders of the future” because they “lay the foundations for a more respectful coexistence and for a safer society”.
The Pope reminded them of the good they can do through the way they carry out their duties. He also recognized how, as law enforcers, they have to face “a wounded and often devastated humanity”. The Pope thanked them for being guardians of the people entrusted to them and said they are called to be “bridges between prison and civil society”.
The Pope acknowledged some of the tensions that may arise in detention facilities, and asked that the guards not be demotivated. Making reference to the phenomena of prison overcrowding, Pope Francis said “it is essential to ensure decent living conditions, otherwise prisons become dustbins of rage, rather than places of recovery”.
Pope Francis’ second term was dedicated to chaplains, nuns, men and women religious and volunteers. “I would like to say to you: go forward”, said the Pope.
Forward, “when you enter into the most difficult situations with the sole strength of a smile and a heart that listens”, he said. Forward “when you load yourself with the burdens of others and carry them in prayer”.
Finally, the Pope addressed his third term, this time to the prisoners. “It is the term ‘courage’”, he said.
Pope Francis asked that the prisoners never allow themselves to be imprisoned in “the dark cell of a hopeless heart”. He asked that they never “give in to resignation”, explaining that “God is greater than any problem and is waiting for you, to love you”.
“Come on”, said Pope Francis, “never suffocate the flame of hope”.
The Pope explained that “to revive this flame is the duty of all”. Every society, he said, should “ensure that punishment does not compromise the right to hope”.
While remedying the mistakes of the past, he concluded, “we cannot erase hope in the future. Life imprisonment is not the solution to problems, but a problem to be solved. Because”, said Pope Francis, “if hope is locked up, there is no future for society”.