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The Pope Who Can Give a Sentence for New Life

2015-04-07 07:07


Dear Pope Francis,

I don't know if you have ever been to where I live. I have grown up in a jungle of gangs and drugs and violence. I have seen people killed. I have been hurt. We have been victims of violence. It is hard to be young and surrounded by darkness.

Pray for me that one day I will be free and be able to help other youth like you do.”

Some American Young Offenders wrote to Pope Francis on hearing that, on Maundy Thursday 2013, he would not celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in St Peter’s. Instead, he would go to an institution like theirs, celebrate Mass with young criminals just like them and would wash and kiss their feet.

Vatican Radio collected some of the letters:

Dear Pope Francis,

I have never been to Rome. I do not know if it is near Los Angeles because, all my youth, I have only known my neighbourhood. I hope one day I will be given a second chance and receive a blessing from you and maybe even have my feet washed on Holy Thursday.”

Dear Pope Francis,

I know you have a good family. I am writing this letter to you because I know that my family is suffering because of me. I know I have done some bad things but I am not a bad kid and when last year in our big State we got a new law called SB9 this made me [and my] family happy because this is a beautiful message that we kids deserve a second chance.”

On Holy Thursday 2013, Pope Francis showed his ability to meet people where they are rather than where he would like them to be. He broke with tradition and, instead of distributing holy pictures to mark his visit, handed out Easter eggs. A picture would be tossed onto the top of a cupboard or a shelf or into a bin: the youngsters will always cherish the memory of the Pope’s Easter egg as a symbol of hope, a new life and of dreams for their future happiness.

The Pope used very simple words, useful as his listeners probably included a good number who were illiterate. Actions speak louder than words. He then washed the sometimes tattooed feet of ten young men and two women, one of them a Muslim.

Perhaps a Pope’s visit to a juvenile detention facility changed a jail sentence into new life and hope for themselves and the rest of society. Last year on Maundy Thursday Francis washed the feet of elderly and infirm people. This year, he heads towards an adult prison, the Rebibbia prison where the would-be-assassin of Pope St John Paul II was incarcerated. Only God knows if his visit will change prison sentences into a new way of life for those whose lives have not always been devoted to spreading the Good News of the Gospel.


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