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Monday, December 19, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 18 DEC 2011 (VIS) - Following his address to inmates in the Roman prison of Rebbibia this morning, the Pope responded to six questions put to him by his audience. Summaries of the questions and his answers are given below:

  Q. I would like to ask His Holiness whether the simplicity of his gesture [in coming here today] will also be understood by our politicians, so that the dignity and hope which belong to each living being may be restored to all mankind, including we prisoners.

  A. "I have come here above all to express my personal and intimate closeness, in communion with Christ Who loves you. But of course this visit ... is also a public gesture reminding our fellow citizens, our government, of the fact that there are serious problems in Italian jails. Clearly, prisons exist to favour justice, and a primary factor of justice is human dignity. ... In as much as I can, I would like to give a signal of how important it is for prisons to respond to their purpose of renewing human dignity, supporting it not undermining it. Let us hope the government has the possibility to respond to this vocation".

  Q. Rather than asking a question, I would like to ask you to allow us to come to you with our suffering, our own suffering and that of our families, like a cable which communicates with the Lord Jesus. I love you.

  A. "I also love you. ... The Lord's self-identification with the imprisoned is an obligation upon us, and I too have to ask myself whether I have acted according to the commandment of the Lord. ... This is one of the reasons I came here, because I know that in you the Lord is waiting for me, that you have need of human recognition, that you need this presence of the Lord. I hope that prisons may realise their true goal of helping people to find themselves, ... to find self-reconciliation and reconciliation with others, with God, in order to re-enter society and help the progress of humankind".

  Q. Do you feel it is right that, ... now that I am a new man and father to a beautiful two-month-old daughter, ... I am not granted the possibility to return home despite the fact that I have paid my debt to society?

  A. "First of all congratulations! I am happy you consider yourself to be a new man. ... You know that, according to Church doctrine, the family is fundamental and it is important for a father to be able to hold his daughter in his arms. Thus, I pray and hope that you will soon embrace your daughter, be with her and your wife to build a beautiful family, and so collaborate in the future of Italy".

  Q. What can sick and HIV-positive prisoners ask of the Pope? ... We are not often mentioned, and then in aggressive terms, as if seeking to eliminate us from society. This makes us feel subhuman.

  A. "We have to endure the fact that people speak about us 'aggressively'. They also speak 'aggressively' about the Pope, yet nonetheless we persevere. I think it is important to encourage everyone to think positively, to understand your sufferings, to understand the need to help you rise again. I will do my part, inviting everyone to think in the right way, not abusively but humanly, understanding that anyone can fall, but God wants everyone to reach Him. We must cooperate in a spirit of fraternity recognising our own fragility so that people can truly ... continue their journey with dignity".

  Q. Holiness, I was taught that the Lord can see and read inside each one of us. Why has absolution been delegated to priests. If I, alone and on my knees, asked the Lord to absolve me, would He?

  A. "Of course if you, on your knees and with authentic love for God, ask Him to forgive you, He will do so. ... However, sin is not only a 'personal' thing, an individual account between me and God. Sin also has a social dimension. ... And it is this social dimension of sin that needs to be absolved at the level of the human community, the community of the Church. ... It requires the Sacrament. ... Sacramental absolution is necessary to absolve me of this bond of evil and to rehabilitate me in the will of God, ... to give me the certainty that God forgives me and receives me into the community of His children".

  Q. Holy Father, last month you visited the African nation of Benin, one of the poorest countries in the world. ... They place their hope and faith in God, and die amidst poverty and violence. Why does God not listen to them? Does God perhaps listen only to the rich and powerful who have no faith?

  A. "God's criteria are different from ours. God gives these poor people the joy of His presence, He makes His closeness felt in their suffering and difficulties, and of course He calls on us all to do everything we can to ensure they can emerge from their sickness and poverty. ... We must pray to God for justice, so that everyone can live in the joy of being His children".

  Having answered the questions, the Pope then prayed with prisoners. On leaving the church, and before returning to the Vatican, he blessed a cypress tree planted in memory of his visit.
PV-REBBIBIA/                            VIS 20111219 (930)

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