Pope at Verona prison: Share pain with God and with others

Pope Francis visits Verona’s Montorio prison, urging detainees to “talk to God about our pain and help each other carry it.”

By Joseph Tulloch

The longest appointment on Pope Francis’ busy schedule for his day-long visit to Verona was his stop at the city’s Montorio prison.

A large number of inmates and staff gathered on the institution’s sports field to greet the Pope as he arrived, while others watched from their cell windows.

After listening to speeches from the prison director, Francesca Gioieni, and Duarte, a young inmate, the Pope gave a short address.

Prisons as dwellings of humanity

“For me,” the Pope said, “entering a prison is always an important moment, because prison is a place of great humanity.”

In prison, he continued, humanity is “tested, sometimes burdened by difficulties, guilt, judgments, misunderstandings, and suffering.”

At the same time, however, he said, referencing an earlier speech by the inmate Duarte, prison is “full of strength, desire for forgiveness, and the will to redeem oneself.”

Pope Francis speaks to staff and detainees at the prison
Pope Francis speaks to staff and detainees at the prison

Recent suicides

The Pope then added that he had learned with sorrow that some inmates of the prison had recently ended their lives.

“This is a sad and terrible act,” he said, “to which only unsustainable despair and pain can lead.”

Existence, the Pope said, is a “unique gift”, for ourselves and for others, and “above all for God, who never abandons us, and who indeed knows how to listen, rejoice and cry with us.”

Let us, the Pope urged, “talk to God about our pain and help each other carry it, as fellow travelers.”

God, the ‘Father of all’

In her welcoming speech, the director of the prison had noted that inmates come from 40 different countries and a wide variety of religious backgrounds.

“God is one,” the Pope told the inmates. “Our cultures have taught us to call him by different names, and to find him in different ways, but He is the same Father of us all.”

“He is one,” the Pope continued, “and all religions, all cultures, look to the one God in different ways. He never abandons us. With Him by our side, we can overcome despair and live every moment as the right time to begin again.”

Pope Francis with prison director Francesca Gioieni
Pope Francis with prison director Francesca Gioieni
Pope's visit to Montorio Prison in Verona

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18 May 2024, 14:52