The group came from the prison where John Paul II famously visited the man who tried to assassinate him.
Pope Francis was visited at Casa Santa Marta by a group of about 20 Italian prisoners on June 21. Accompanied by the director of the prison, the chaplain, and several officials, the prisoners went on to the Vatican Museums for a visit.
These detainees are held in Rebibbia prison, a penitentiary center in the eastern suburbs of Rome. Several popes have visited this prison, perhaps most famously John Paul II, in 1983, to meet Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turk who tried to assassinate him in 1981.
Benedict XVI also made the trip to visit with the detainees in 2011. Francis has gone as well, even washing their feet during the Mass on Holy Thursday in 2015.
On March 9, 2020, at the start of confinement in Italy, the prisoners of Rebibbia – like those in other Italian prisons and prisons in many other countries – rioted. At the heart of this uprising was the fear of contagion in overcrowded buildings and the suspension of family visits. At the time, the pontiff interceded for prisoners on numerous occasions, denouncing the “grave calamity,” which he said represents overcrowding in prison.
This prison also has a female section. On April 11, the Argentinian pontiff called a small number of these prisoners to attend the Eucharistic celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday.