The Pope decided to visit a Mexican prison during his last full day in Mexico. The prison is in Ciudad Juarez, which borders El Paso, Texas. The visit very symbolic, because the site represents a series of social problems Mexico faces. From mmigration to violence against women. An estimated 2,500 women have dispapeared in the city since 2010.
With roughly 3,000 inmates serving time in the prison, Pope Francis recieved a warm welcome and he even greeted some of the prisoner's family members.
One of his first stops was to the prison's chapel, where as a gift, he received an image of Christ, made out of crystal.
"Crystal is very fragile and it can break right away. Christ on the Cross represents what's most fragile about humanity. But this frailty actually saves us. It helps us and it makes us move forward. It opens the doors of hope. I wish that each and every one of you, through the blessings of Our Lady and before the frailty of Christ, who died for our sins, can sow seeds of hope and resurrection. Hail Mary, full of Grace....”
Once the Pope stepped outside, he heard from one of the female inmates who shared her story.
"Holy Father, thank you for thinking of us. For being so modest and humble. You, more than anyone else, understands us. We ask you to please pray for our families who are victims of agressions because of our actions. We ask you to also pray for the victims of our agressions. We all need the presence of God in our lives, so that His mercy may never abandon us.”
After listening to their testimonies, the Pope greeted even more inmates. One of them even gave the Pope a pastoral staff he made for him.
As he addressed the prison, the Pope called for so called reintegration programs to be improved.
"At times it may seem that prisons are intended more to prevent people from committing crimes than to promote the process of rehabilitation that allows us to address the social, psychological and family problems which lead a person to act in a certain way”.
Stopping violence, said the Pope, isn't about jailing people for life, but instead about promoting values and cultural solidarity.
"It is within a society’s capacity to include the poor, infirm and imprisoned, that we see its ability to heal their wounds and make them builders of a peaceful coexistence”.
The inmate population has grown signinficantly in Mexico and fights often break out inside the prisons. Just a few days ago in the northern state of Monterrey 52 people, reportedly died in one of the jails.
Despite the challenges, this prison welcomed the Pope with open arms and the inmates even played a few tunes for the Pope before he headed off to his next appointment.