Prison inmates from jails around Colombia prepared themselves spiritually for the Pope's visit to their country through prayers, letters, messages, and watching his arrival to their country on television. Although the Pope Francis’s Sept. 6-10 trip to Colombia does not include a visit to a penitentiary, the Pope's visit has been viewed as a sign of peace and serenity for persons deprived of their liberty.
The trip holds even more special meaning for those who have asked that the government consider the Jubilee Law, through which inmates with minor offenses are granted a reduction of their sentence. Encouraged through the country's Catholic Penitentiary Ministry and the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute, inmates of the various prison centers throughout the country prepared spiritually for the Pope’s visit.
Fr. Edgar Galeano, chaplain at Colombia’s Model Jail in Bogota, explained that the inmates in his prison participated in prayer groups, daily recitation of the Rosary, and reading sacred scripture. In addition, every block read a book called “Take the First Step” in order to develop ten spiritual encounters on a weekly basis. Likewise, in the penitentiary centers, liturgical celebrations were held with the motto “Pope Francis: the prisoners in Colombia are praying for you.” During the services, they asked for forgiveness for their personal sins and lit candles to pray for the protection of Pope Francis on his journey.
One of the inmates of Block 3 began painting a picture of Pope Francis three years ago. “Three years ago the initiative was born, a hope, a faith was born. Something in my heart told me that it would be a nice gesture to give something to a representative of Jesus.”
Aldo, another one of the prison inmates, wrote a letter to the pontiff in which he said: “If I could speak to you personally, Pope Francis, I would ask you to perform three miracles: Forgive all my mistakes and all the times I have hurt others; to return to be a child with the memories lived, having repented of having done bad things; I do not want to move away from my family. I would like to start over.”
Carlos Manuel Gutiérrez, a spokesman for the Building New and Better Roads Corporation in Bucaramanga, Colombia told the Colombian outlet Vanguardia that the letters written by the inmates are due to be delivered on Sept. 9 to Pope Francis, during his visit to Medellin.