Tony Gentile/Reuters
Pope Francis celebrates a Jubilee mass for prisoners in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on Sunday.

Pope Francis to prisoners around the world: Never lose hope

In a special Jubilee Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday, Francis urged prisoners not to give up hope and enjoined political leaders to respect prisoners' dignity.

Roughly 1,000 inmates from around the world gathered in St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday to hear Pope Francis deliver a special Jubilee Mass, in which he urged political leaders to respect the dignity of the incarcerated. 

"Sometimes, a certain hypocrisy leads to people considering you only as wrongdoers, for whom prison is the sole answer," Francis told the crowd, made up of prisoners from 12 countries and their families, during his homily. "We don't think about the possibility that people can change their lives. We put little trust in rehabilitation ... into society. But in this way we forget that we are all sinners and often, without being aware of it, we too are prisoners." 

Prior to the pope's arrival at the basilica, the crowd heard testimonies from several people who had turned their lives around after being convicted of crimes, and a mother who appeared alongside the man who murdered her son to speak on the power of freeing oneself from hatred. 

The event, which was part of the Vatican's Holy Year of Mercy, marked Francis's latest attempt to reach out to the incarcerated. Previously, he has washed the feet of inmates, offered inmates a private tour of Vatican gardens and a blessing from the frescoed splendor of the Sistine Chapel, and visited prisoners around the world, from Brazil, to Bolivia, to Philadelphia, Penn. 

The pope's incarceration outreach efforts have been welcomed not only by inmates, but by prison reform advocates who hope they can raise awareness of the shortcomings of prison systems around the world. 

"It's really going to bring a level of humanity to the prison world and show that prisoners are people and deserve to be recognized," Ann Schwartzman, the policy and program director for the prison advocacy group Pennsylvania Prison Society, told Prison Legal News prior to the pope's Philadelphia visit last year. 

Speaking on Sunday, Francis appealed to political leaders "of each country" to improve prison conditions, implement policies that enable offenders to return to society, and offer clemency whenever possible. 

"At times, we are locked up within our own prejudices or enslaved to the idols of a false sense of wellbeing," he said. "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." 

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.  

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Pope Francis to prisoners around the world: Never lose hope
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today