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 CNS Story:

POPE-PRISONERS Oct-23-2013 (290 words) xxxi

Pope says he's drawn to prisoners because he's human like they are

(CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said his care, concern and prayers for those in prison flow from a recognition that he is human like they are, and it's a mystery they fell so far and he did not.

"Thinking about this is good for me: When we have the same weakness, why did they fall and I didn't? This is a mystery that makes me pray and draws me to prisoners," the pope said Oct. 23 during a brief audience with about 200 Italian prison chaplains.

Pope Francis told the chaplains that he still makes Sunday afternoon phone calls to the prison in Buenos Aires that he used to visit and that he continues to correspond with some of the inmates.

Most prisoners find in serving their sentences that one day is fine and the next is awful, he said, and "it's this up and down that's difficult."

"Please," he said, tell the Italian prisoners that "I pray for them, that they are in my heart, that I ask the Lord and the Blessed Mother to help them overcome this difficult period in their lives."

The task of a chaplain, he said, is to let them know that "the Lord is inside with them."

"No cell is so isolated that it can keep the Lord out," the pope said. "He is there. He cries with them, works with them, hopes with them. His paternal and maternal love arrives everywhere."

Pope Francis also said that Catholics need to recognize just how much God shares the situation of detainees: "He, too, is imprisoned today, imprisoned in our selfishness, our systems, and many injustices because it's easy to punish the weakest, but the big fish swim free."


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