The Jubilee for Prisoners celebrated on Sunday gave prisoners, their families, prison chaplains and staff the chance to hear Pope Francis’ message of hope and mercy. In his homily, the Holy Father stressed that “hope was a gift of God” and that “his mercy gives him no rest.”
One of those attending the Mass in St Peter’s Basilica was Monsignor Roger Reader, prison advisor to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, who dropped into the studios of Vatican Radio following the event.
Vatican Radio’s Lydia O’Kane interviewed Monsignor Roger Reader.
Reflecting on the Pope’s homily, Mgr Reader said, it was very encouraging to hear that message of hope. It is something, he added, that he himself tries to instill in those prisoners who think that prison is just for bad people. “There is hope for everybody in prison”, he underlined, “prison shouldn’t only be about bad people but should be about hope and should be about looking for forgiveness and that for everybody with an open heart, forgiveness is there for them.”
So what has been the effect of Year of Mercy on the lives of prisoners? According to Mons Reader there have been many projects associated with the Jubilee, in particular, the prison advisor commissioned an icon of the Mercy of Jesus Christ and each prisoner in England and Wales has been given a copy.
He said, the feedback he has received has been tremendous. “They are saying, ‘you remembered us, the Church is there for us…’” Monsignor Reader added, that there has also been an upsurge in people wanting to volunteer in prisons which, he said was very positive because they have a huge role to play.
During the Angelus on Sunday in St Peter’s Square Pope Francis appealed for better living conditions for prisoners, something the Monsignor feels strongly about, “…you’re never going to rehabilitate somebody by making them live in squalor, that’s not going to work”, he said.