Pope Francis: Drawn to Prisoners Because He's Human Like They Are

Pope Francis said his care, concern and prayers for those in prison flows from a recognition that he is human like they are, and it's a mystery they fell so far and he did not.

"Thinking about this is good for me: When we have the same weakness, why did they fall and I didn't? This is a mystery that makes me pray and draws me to prisoners," the pope said during a brief audience with about 200 Italian prison chaplains.
Pope Francis told the chaplains that he still makes Sunday afternoon phone calls to the prison in Buenos Aires that he used to visit and that he continues to correspond with some of the inmates. Most prisoners find in serving their sentences that one day is fine and the next day is awful, and "it's this up and down that's difficult."

Pope Francis visit to detainees at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility

(Video Link of Pope Francis addressing the detainees is included at the end of this article)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning. I am going to speak in Spanish because I don’t speak English, but he [pointing to the interpreter] speaks good English and he is going to translate for me. Thank you for receiving me and giving me the opportunity to be here with you and to share this time in your lives. It is a difficult time, one full of struggles. I know it is a painful time not only for you, but also for your families and for all of society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society “condemned” to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain.

I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own. I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection.

I think of the Gospel scene where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. This was something his disciples found hard to accept. Even Peter refused, and told him: “You will never wash my feet” (Jn 13:8).

In those days, it was the custom to wash someone’s feet when they came to your home. That was how they welcomed people. The roads were not paved, they were covered with dust, and little stones would get stuck in your sandals. Everyone walked those roads, which left their feet dusty, bruised or cut from those stones. That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of his disciples, then and now.

We all know that life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us.

We also know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from travelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us what about we have done. Rather, he tells us: “Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me” (Jn 13:8). Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which he created you. Jesus comes to meet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God. He wants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recover our hope, to restore our faith and trust. He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and that confinement is never the same thing as exclusion.

Address of Pope Francis To Joint Session of United States Congress

Address of Pope Francis To The Joint Session of the United States Congress on September 24, 2015 (United States Capital, Washington, D.C.)
Excerpt: Global Abolition of the Death Penalty

Let us remember the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Mt.7:12). This Rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. 
This conviction has led me, from the beginning of my ministry, to advocate at different levels for the global abolition of the death penalty. I am convinced that this is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

In Loving Memory of the First President of OBK

Russell B. Peterson

It was with deep sorrow and fond memories that we mourned the
passing of Russ Peterson, the first President of Our Brothers' Keepers of Southern Ilinois.

All of us were caught off guard by his untimely death on March 20, 2015, and we now realize how much we were depending on his leadership and energy. All the fellow Directors are committed to seeing that his dream of "reentry homes for returning citizens" is achieved as a result of the rock like foundation he layed before us. 

Together as Church: a Summer Prison Ministry Experience

When I decided to work with Lou and Fr. Chris in Prison Ministry for the Diocese of Belleville, IL for the summer, I did not really know what to expect. I wanted to learn more about the criminal justice system in the US and I wanted the opportunity to meet some of the people it affected. My plan was to show up and listen. I hoped somehow I could contribute to their work through my energetic caring.

In two short months, I got more than I could have ever expected. Through a wide variety of experiences (county jail, state prison, community organizing meetings, start-up of non-profit), I grew in my understanding about the criminal justice system. Through the people I met (women in anger management and Narcotics Anonymous classes, men in bible studies and Mass, many social workers and ministers and volunteers), my heart broke open. I saw their pain and suffering and I felt frustrated, angry, and soul wrenching compassion. I heard their resilience and determination and I felt inspired, hopeful, and in absolute awe. I could tell stories for hours of the many faces that will forever be pressed in my memory; however for this brief time I will share some of my 'take-aways' from lessons learned.