Pope: That prison be a place of rehabilitation and social reintegration

"When someone asks me difficult things like 'why do children suffer' I really do not know how to answer, I just look at the crucifix and watch how God gave His son, this is why we say that God took on our pain”.


Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Prisons must be places of reintegration. Pope Francis once again launched this appeal, which is particularly dear to him, in reference to yesterday’s events in Brazil. "Yesterday - he said – we had the dramatic news from Brazil of the massacre that took place in the Manaus prison, where a violent clash between rival gangs has caused dozens of deaths. I express my sorrow and concern for what happened. I invite you to pray for the dead, for their families, for all inmates of that prison and for those who work there. And I renew the appeal so that prisons are places of rehabilitation and social reintegration, and the living conditions of detainees are worthy of human beings. I invite you to pray for these dead prisoners and for all those in the world, so that prisons really are places of reintegration, pray to Our Lady, Mother of detainees. "

Earlier, the Pope, in continuing catechesis dedicated to Christian hope, said that "when someone asks me difficult things like 'why do children suffer' I really do not know how to answer, I just look at the crucifix and watch how God gave His son, this is why we say that God took on our pain".

To seven thousand people present in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican for the general audience, the Pope proposed "the figure of a woman who speaks to us of hope lived in tears. This is Rachel, the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, the one who, as the Book of Genesis tells us, died in giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, that is”. "The prophet Jeremiah refers to Rachel addressing the Israelites in exile to comfort them with words full of emotion and poetry, he takes the weeping of Rachel, but gives it hope. Thus says the LORD: In Ramah is heard the sound of sobbing, bitter weeping! Rachel mourns for her children, she refuses to be consoled for her children—they are no more!j" (Jeremiah 31:15 ). In these verses, Jeremiah presents this woman of his people, the great matriarch of his tribe, in a reality of pain and tears, but together with an undreamt perspective of life. Rachel, who Genesis tells us had died giving birth and had assumed that death so that the child could live, but now, is represented by the Prophet alive in Rama, there where the deportees are gathered, weeping for her children who in a sense die going into exile; children who, as she says, are 'no more', who are gone forever. And this is why Rachel would not be comforted. This refusal expresses the depth of her pain and bitterness of her tears. Before the tragedy of the loss of children, a mother cannot accept words or gestures of consolation, which are always inadequate, never able to soothe the pain of a wound that cannot and will not be healed. A pain in proportion to her love”.

"Every mother knows this; and there are many, even today, mothers who weep, who are not resigned to the loss of a child, inconsolable before a death impossible to accept. Rachel embodies the pain of all mothers of the world, of all time, and the tears of every human being who cries irreparable loss".

"This refusal of Rachel to be consoled also teaches us how gentle we must be before the pain of others. To speak of hope to those in despair, you have to share their despair; to wipe a tear from the face of the suffering, we must unite our tears to theirs. Only then can our words really be able to give a bit 'of hope, and I cannot say words like that, before cries of pain, silence is best, a caress, a gesture without words.

And God, with his gentleness and his love, responds to the cry of Rachel with real words. The text of Jeremiah continues. Says the Lord, responding to that cry: "Thus says the LORD:Cease your cries of weeping, hold back your tears! There is compensation for your labor— oracle of the LORD— they shall return from the enemy’s land"(Jer 31.16 to 17). Precisely because of the crying of the mother, there is still hope for the children, who will return to life. This woman, who had agreed to die in childbirth so her son could live, with her crying is now the source of new life for her children who are exiles, prisoners far from home. The Lord responds to Rachel’s pain and bitter weeping, with a promise that now may be the reason for her true consolation: the people will return from exile and live in faith, free, in relationship with God. The tears have generated hope. This is not easy to understand but it is true, many times in life our tears sow hope, they are seeds of hope”.

"As we know, this text of Jeremiah is then taken up by the Evangelist Matthew and applied to the massacre of the innocents (cf. 2.16 to 18). A text that puts us in front of the tragedy of the killing of defenseless human beings, the horror of the power that despises and suppresses life. The children of Bethlehem died because of Jesus. And He, the innocent Lamb, was to die, in turn, for all of us. The Son of God came into the pain of men, do not forget this. When someone asks me difficult things like 'why do children suffer' I really do not know how to answer, I just look at the crucifix and watch how God gave His son, this is why we say that God took on our pain, shared in our suffering and up to death. His Word is definitely a word of consolation, because it comes from crying. And on the cross, he, the dying Son, donates a new fruitfulness to his mother, entrusting the disciple John to her and making her the mother of believers. Death is conquered, and thus comes to fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy. Even the tears of Mary, like those of Rachel, have generated hope and new life".

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