Vatican City, 5 July 2014 (VIS) – After taking leave of the young people at Castelpetroso, Pope Francis transferred by car to the penitentiary centre of Isernia, a journey of around half an hour, to visit the detainees. The meeting took place on the prison forecourt and, in his address to the inmates, the Holy Father insisted on the need for rehabilitation, “a path we must all undertake, because we all make mistakes in this life, and must all ask forgiveness for our errors”.
“Whoever says they have no need of rehabilitation is a liar!” he exclaimed. “And when we ask the Lord's forgiveness for our sins, for our mistakes, He always forgives us, he never tires of forgiving us. He says to us: 'Turn back from this road, because it will not do you good to go there'. And He helps us. And this is rehabilitation, the path that we must all take. The important thing is not to stay still. We all know that still waters become stagnant, they are the first to become impure. … We must move ahead, a step a day, with the Lord's help. God is the Father, He is merciful. … ”. He lifts us up and fully restores our dignity. … God does not forget us. And with this confidence we can walk on, day by day. And with this faithful love that accompanies, hope never disappoints. … Some think that they must take a path of punishment, of mistakes, of sins and that they must suffer, suffer, and suffer. It is true, one suffers. As one of your companions said, here one suffers. One suffers inside and outside, when one sees that he or she does not have a clear conscience and wishes to change it. It is a suffering that purifies, like fire that purifies gold; it is suffering with hope”.
“There is a beautiful thing when the Lord forgives us: he does not say, 'I forgive you, now get on by yourself!' No, He forgives us, takes us by the hand and helps us to go ahead on this path of rehabilitation, in our personal life and also in social life. He does this with all of us. To think that the inner order of a person may be corrected only through punishment, this is not God's way, this is mistaken. Some think, 'No, we should punish more, with longer sentences, more!'. This does not solve anything. Imprisoning people because – and forgive me for this – for the mere fact that if they are inside we are safe, this is not useful, it does not help us. The most important thing is what God does with us: He takes us by the hand and He helps us to go on. And this is called hope! And with this hope, with this trust, we can walk on, day by day. And with this faithful love, that accompanies us, truly hope never disappoints”.
Finally, the Pope told the detainees that every fifteen days he makes a telephone call to a prison in Buenos Aires to speak to the young inmates, and said, “When I meet one of you, who is in a detention centre, who is on the path to rehabilitation, but who is in custody, sincerely I ask myself this questions: why him and not me? This is what I feel. It is a mystery. But from this sentiment, with this feeling, I accompany you”.