Visiting the imprisoned is an act of mercy that has implications for all Christians and not just those involved in prison ministry, Pope Francis said on Friday. Source: CNS.
Speaking to participants at an international meeting of national and regional directors of Catholic prison ministries, the Pope urged greater efforts to reform prison systems, address the root causes of crime and ensure acceptance and reintegration once a person completes his or her sentence.
“The whole Church in fidelity to the mission received from Christ” is called to show the most vulnerable people the mercy of God, the Pope said. “We will be judged on this.”
While not arguing against all prison sentences, Pope Francis urged Catholics to reflect on sentencing guidelines and the motivations behind them to ensure they do not promote “a throwaway culture”.
“Many times,” he said, societies “in a supposed search for good and for security, seek the isolation and imprisonment of those who act against social norms,” believing that locking them up is “the ultimate solution to the problems of community life”.
In that way, he said, people think it “is justified that large amounts of public resources are destined to repress offenders instead of truly seeking to promote the integral development of people, which reduces the circumstances that favour committing illegal acts”.
“It is easier to repress than to educate and, I would say, it is more comfortable too,” Francis told the group. “Denying the injustice present in society and creating these spaces to put offenders is easier than offering equal development opportunities to all citizens.”
The aim of a prison sentence should be to educate and prepare people to return eventually to society as law-abiding and contributing citizens, he said, but that often is not the case because of a lack of “resources to address the social, psychological and family problems experienced by detainees.”
“You cannot talk about paying a debt to society from a jail cell without windows,” Pope Francis said. “There is no humane punishment without a horizon. No one can change their life if they don’t see a horizon. And so many times we are used to blocking the view of our inmates.”