Introduces himself to inmates as "a man saved from his many sins"
SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — Pope Francis has paid a special visit to a “village” for prisoners, where children and spouses of the inmates also reside.
The Pope called in at the Palmasola rehabilitation centre in Bolivia on Friday on the final day of his second leg in a three-nation visit to Latin America.
He began by introducing himself in a way in which the residents of the center could better relate to him.
“The man standing before you is a man who has experienced forgiveness,” he said. “A man who was, and is, saved from his many sins. That is who I am. I don’t have much more to give you or to offer you, but I want to share with you what I do have and what I love. It is Jesus Christ, the mercy of the Father.”
After listening to personal testimonies about their life in Palmasola from, Pope Francis went on to speak to them about St. Peter’s experience of imprisonment, and the power of prayer and Jesus’ love for them. He also called them to personal responsibility during their detainment, telling them: “the way you live together depends to some extent on yourselves.”
“Help one another,” he said. “Do not be afraid to help one another. The devil wants quarrels, rivalry, division, gangs. Don’t let him play with you. Keep working to make progress, together.”
Here below we publish the full text of the Pope’s address.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I could not leave Bolivia without seeing you, without sharing that faith and hope which are the fruit of the love revealed on the cross of Christ. Thank you for welcoming me; I know that you have prepared yourselves for this moment and that you have been praying for me. I am deeply grateful for this.
In the words of Archbishop Jesús Juárez and in the testimonies of our brothers who have spoken, I have seen how pain does not stifle the hope deep within the human heart, and how life goes on, finding new strength even in the midst of difficulties.
You may be asking yourselves: “Who is this man standing before us?”. I would like to reply to that question with something absolutely certain about my own life. The man standing before you is a man who has experienced forgiveness. A man who was, and is, saved from his many sins. That is who I am. I don’t have much more to give you or to offer you, but I want to share with you what I do have and what I love. It is Jesus Christ, the mercy of the Father.
Jesus came to show the love which God has for us. For you, for each of you, and for me. It is a love which is powerful and real. It is a love which takes seriously the plight of those he loves. It is a love which heals, forgives, raises up and shows concern. It is a love which draws near and restores dignity. We can lose this dignity in so many ways. But Jesus is stubborn: he gave his very life in order to restore the identity we had lost, to clothe us with the power of his dignity.
Here is something which can help us to understand this. Peter and Paul, disciples of Jesus, were also prisoners. They too lost their freedom. But there was something that sustained them, something that did not let them yield to despair, which did not let them sink into darkness and meaninglessness. That something was prayer; it was prayer. Prayer, both individually and with others. They prayed, and they prayed for one another. These two forms of prayer became a network to maintain life and hope. And that network keeps us from yielding to despair. It encourages us to keep moving forward. It is a network which supports life, your own lives and those of your families. You spoke about your mother [the Holy Father is speaking to the person who gave his testimony at the beginning]. The prayer of mothers, the prayer of wives, the prayers of your sons and daughters, and your own prayers: this is a network of support which encourages you to move forward.