Rome prison chaplain "super-happy" Pope to visit
(Vatican Radio) On Holy Thursday 2 April, Pope Francis will visit Rome’s Casa Circondariale New Prison Complex Rebibbia to meet detainees and staff. He will celebrate the “in Cena Domini” or Lord’s Supper Mass in the church, “Padre Nostro” at 5:30 pm Rome time. During the rite, he will wash the feet of a group of detainees and female inmates from the nearby women’s penitentiary. Vatican Radio’s Sergio Centofanti spoke to Rebibbia chaplain, Don Sandro Spriano:
A. – We are super happy, because the Pope has accepted the invitation I gave him when we met at a Mass in the Santa Marta guesthouse in September. He told us that if possible, he would come on Holy Thursday. The fact that he kept this promise makes us very, very happy: it is a beautiful thing. We will repeat the experience of three years ago, with Pope Ratzinger, but in a different context and with a different person.
Q. – For the inmates, what does this visit mean?
A. – Clearly it shows how much importance the Church of Rome in particular places on their condition. We always say that they are the most unfortunate. In this case, showing that they are children of God, loved by the Church and in particular by the Pope, is for them very, very important. Among other things, it will be the first time when we will celebrate with men and women prisoners, bringing inmates of the women’s prison to join us: it will be a very nice thing.
Q. – What do you remember most of Benedict XVI’s visit?
A. –I recall it vividly, because then it was a dialogue of questions and answers with the Pope, and he opened up and shared some personal stories so it was something truly fraternal. In this case, the celebration certainly has a different solemnity but the gesture of the “Washing of the Feet” of male and female detainees, will be not only a liturgically significant moment but also emotionally, a very nice moment.
Q. – What is the situation today at Rebibbia?
A. – It’s a situation with a little less overcrowding, but the people there continue to have the same problems as before because unfortunately the prison issue – a part from some measures that have brought down the numbers – nothing new has happened.
Q. – What are your expectations for the Pope’s visit?
A. – This is a strictly pastoral visit. We need someone to embrace us, who makes us feel part of society, who makes us feel part of the wider Christian Church and not segregated. The Pope will do this and it is what we hope for.
Q. – What are you calling politicians to do?
A. – What we are really asking is that prison is not simply punishment and society’s revenge on those who commit crimes, in trouble with the law. We want to see that prison – as described in the Constitution – is a place of recovery, a place of re-socialization, a place where you can also build some basis on which to return to live – better! When you leave.