Pope to Prisoners: Remember...pain does not eliminate hope
It may have been the most emotional meeting Pope Francis held in Bolivia...Many of these families, actually live in a prison.
The Palmasola Reform Center in Santa Cruz, houses more than 2,800 inmates. But the prison center actually allows prisoner's families to live there as well, in a type of makeshift community village.
After greeting families, the Pope heard the account of three prisoners.
This 22 year old former engineering student was sentenced to 20 years for homicide. He started off by asking for forgiveness to victims and to his own family.
"To begin, I want to ask for forgiveness to all the people I've hurt. To my family who, since my sentence two years ago, have stood by me and have had to work hard to ask for loans to pay a lawyer, who ended up taking advantage of them and other clients.â?
This female prisoner is one of 330 female inmates who live in the prison. She said many of them are never even tried in court. Since the Pope always asks for prayers, she gave a tearful testimony."
"We pray for you. With all our hearts, we pray that God blesses and protects you forever.â?
The prison has ties with a Catholic program that allows the inmates to study and develop marketable skills.
The Pope highlighted the power of forgiveness, adding that pain never eliminates hope.
"When Jesus becomes part of our lives, we can no longer remain imprisoned by our past. Instead, we begin look to the present, and we see it differently, with a different kind of hope.â?
The inmates complained of corruption and abuse that specifically targets the most vulnerable. In fact they called on the Pope to intervene on their behalf to ask for change.
The Pope called on them to help one another when faced by adversity.
"Do not be afraid to help each other. The devil is looking for rivalry, division, gangs. Keep working towards progress.â?
There was also this endearing moment. One of the two girls who sat on the stage as all the prelates and inmates gave their speech, decided to walk up to the Pope and give him a long hug.