Pope Francis writing to heads of state inviting them to pardon prisoners so that this Christmas season can be "open" to the Lord's grace.
In the context of the coming Christmas, Pope Francis will send heads of state across the world a letter inviting them to pardon prisoners, the Holy See Press Office announced on December 12, 2022.
The Pontiff will ask the leaders to make a “gesture of clemency” to the “brothers and sisters deprived of their liberty and who are held eligible to benefit from such a provision,” the short communiqué states. “So that this time marked by tensions, injustice and conflicts may be opened to the grace that comes from the Lord.”
No further information was provided on the contents of the letter or to which heads of state the Pontiff is planning to send the text to.
A Pope close to prisoners and inmates
Throughout his pontificate Pope Francis has often shown his closeness and sympathy to prisoners and inmates. On Holy Thursday in 2013, two weeks after his election, the Argentine Pontiff went to a juvenile detention center on the outskirts of Rome to wash the feet of 12 young people of varying faiths and nationalities. Since then he has often repeated this gesture on Maundy Thursday, travelling every time to a different prison across the city.
In light of the 2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy, a special Jubilee for prisoners was held on November 6. During the Angelus, after celebrating a mass at St. Peter’s Basilica with thousands of inmates and their family members, Pope Francis called on the relevant authorities in each state to consider an “act of clemency” for prisoners. In a direct response to the Pope’s call, Cuba pardoned 787 inmates.
John Paul II made same request
Before Francis, Pope John Paul II had already made a similar gesture. In a message for the Jubilee 2000 in prisons, held on July 9, 2000, in the context of the Great Jubilee of that year, the Polish Pope asked authorities across the world for a pardon for their prisoners.
More recently, while speaking to the clergy and other religious during his trip to Bahrain last November, Pope Francis underlined that “caring for prisoners is good for everyone, as a human community, since the way in which these “least ones” are treated is a measure of the dignity and the hope of a society.” In the weeks leading up to the trip the Bahraini authorities had been criticized by human rights groups for their treatment of prisoners and their use of the death penalty.
In 2018 the Pope also revised the Catechism of the Catholic Church so that the death penalty is now considered “inadmissible.” The previous text said the Church did not exclude recourse to the death penalty in “very rare, if not practically nonexistent” cases.