Vatican City, 23 October 2013 (VIS) – Before today's General Audience the Holy Father received the participants in the National Congress of Italian Prison Chaplains. Pope Francis took this opportunity to extend a greeting to all detainees. “Tell them that I pray for them, I pray to the Lord and to the Virgin that they may positively overcome this difficult period in their lives, and that they are not discouraged, that they do not close themselves up, because the Lord is near them, He does not stay outside their cells, but instead He is inside with them. He too is still a prisoner, even today; He is a prisoner of our selfishness, our systems, of many injustices, because it is easy to punish the weakest while the big fish swim freely in the waters. No cell is so isolated that it may exclude the Lord”.
The Pope told of the friendship he maintained with a detainee in Buenos Aires, and said the the chaplains that their demanding and very important ministry “makes visible the presence of the Lord in prison, in the cell. You are a sign of Christ's closeness to those brothers in need of hope. Recently you spoke of a justice of reconciliation, but also of hope, of open doors, of horizons. This is not a utopia, it can be achieved. It is not easy, because our weaknesses are everywhere, and the devil too is everywhere, but it is always necessary to try”.