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Full text of the Pope's powerful speech to prisoners

2015-09-27

Dear Brothers and Sisters,


Thank you for receiving me and givingme the opportunity to be here with you and to share this time in yourlives. It is a difficult time, one full of struggles. I know it is apainful time not only for you, but also for your families and for allof society. Any society, any family, which cannot share or takeseriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as somethingnormal or to be expected, is a society "condemned” to remain ahostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause that pain.


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


I think of the Gospel scene where Jesuswashes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. This wassomething his disciples found hard to accept. Even Peter refused, andtold him: "You will never wash my feet” (Jn 13:8).


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


Life is a journey, along differentroads, different paths, which leave their mark on us.


We know in faith that Jesus seeks usout. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt fromtravelling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from ourjourney. He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’tquestion us what about we have done. Rather, he tells us: "Unless Iwash your feet, you have no share with me” (Jn 13:8). Unless I washyour feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Fatheralways dreamed of, the life for which he created you. Jesus comes tomeet us, so that he can restore our dignity as children of God. Hewants to help us to set out again, to resume our journey, to recoverour hope, to restore our faith and trust. He wants us to keep walkingalong the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission, and thatconfinement is not the same thing as exclusion.


Life means "getting our feet dirty”from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to becleansed, to be washed. All of us are being sought out by theTeacher, who wants to help us resume our journey. The Lord goes insearch of us; to all of us he stretches out a helping hand.


It is painful when we see prisonsystems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain,to offer new possibilities. It is painful when we see people whothink that only others need to be cleansed, purified, and do notrecognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also theweariness, pain and wounds of society. The Lord tells us this clearlywith a sign: he washes our feet so we can come back to the table. Thetable from which he wishes no one to be excluded. The table which isspread for all and to which all of us are invited.


This time in your life can only haveone purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, togive you a hand to help you rejoin society. All of us are part ofthat effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable yourrehabilitation. A rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires:inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social andeducational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevatesthe morale of the entire community.


Jesus invites us to share in his lot,his way of living and acting. He teaches us to see the world throughhis eyes. Eyes which are not scandalized by the dust picked up alongthe way, but want to cleanse, heal and restore. He asks us to createnew opportunities: for inmates, for their families, for correctionalauthorities, and for society as a whole.


I encourage you to have this attitudewith one another and with all those who in any way are part of thisinstitution. May you make possible new opportunities, new journeys,new paths.


All of us have something we need to becleansed of, or purified from. May the knowledge of that fact inspireus to live in solidarity, to support one another and seek the bestfor others.


Let us look to Jesus, who washes ourfeet. He is "the way, and the truth, and the life”. He comes tosave us from the lie that says no one can change. He helps us tojourney along the paths of life and fulfillment. May the power of hislove and his resurrection always be a path leading you to new life.