Francis addresses 200 Italian prison chaplains in the Vatican

Pope Francis said his care, concern and prayers for those in prison flow from a recognition that he is human like they are.

“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 on Wednesday with about 200 Italian prison chaplains, attendees at the National Conference of Chaplains of Italian Prisons.

“No cell is so isolated that it can keep the Lord out,” the Pope continued. “He is there. He cries with them, works with them, hopes with them. His paternal and maternal love arrives everywhere.”

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 is awful, he said, and “it’s this up and down that’s difficult.”

He asked the chaplains to relate his words to prisoners and tell them, “I pray for them, that they are in my heart, that I ask the Lord and the Blessed Mother to help them overcome this difficult period in their lives.”

He added: “I pray because each open the heart to that love. And I pray for you too, for your ministry, very challenging and very important, because it expresses one of the works of mercy.

“Recently you talked about justice of reconciliation, but also a justice of hope, open doors, horizons, this is not a utopia, you can do it, it’s not easy because our weaknesses are everywhere, the devil is everywhere, but you have to try”.