The penitential path for three convicted murderers in Italy includes a unique role at Mass: they make the Eucharistic hosts to be consecrated by prison chaplains, a cardinal, and perhaps one day the Pope.
Cristiano Vallanzano, Giuseppe Ferlitto and Ciro D'Amora are among 1,300 inmates at the Opera maximum security prison in Milan, They are taking part in the “Meaning of Bread” program, which aims to create a process of reconciliation for the prisoners, the Italian television station TG2000 reports.
Vallanzano, the youngest of the three, is serving a 23-year sentence.
“Above everything else, I hope to be forgiven by God for what I’ve done,” he said.
He recounted the process of making the hosts: “In the morning, we say a short prayer, a Hail Mary, an Our Father, we make the dough, have some coffee, smoke a cigarette and begin.”
Vallanzano hopes to leave prison while he is still young, saying, “When I get out of prison I hope to get married, have children, a family.”
D’Amora said it was “very touching” to start their work with a prayer.
“We think about the people who are suffering, those we’ve made suffer and we pray.”
With this work, he said, “we’re sending a message to young people not to do what we ourselves have done.”
Ferlitto said it is “a really beautiful thing” to make with his own hands the hosts that he and others receive in Holy Communion.
“When I’m working on making the hosts I always ask Jesus, God, for forgiveness for what I’ve done,” he said. He hopes that this work “will give me the possibility to one day personally ask forgiveness of the relatives of the victims.”
Arnoldo Mosca Mondadori, the project’s creator, said the program shows “that the need to be saved by the love of Christ is for everyone.” It is “not just for those who are serving a sentence in prison, who are often conscious of the mistakes they made.”
Mondadori is co-founder of the Milan-based Casa dello Spirito e delle Arti, a social, spiritual and cultural center.
The three prisoners want to present the hosts they have made to Pope Francis in person.
In a letter to the Pope, the three said they hope that “we ourselves, with our hands once stained with blood, can place in his blessed hands the hosts we’ve made, on the occasion of the Jubilee (Year of Mercy).”
“With the hope that our dream can be realized, we greet you with great affection and devotion,” the letter concludes. The prisoners signed the letter with their first names: Cristiano, Giuseppe and Ciro.
Some of the hosts that these three prisoners make will be consecrated Jan. 17 by Cardinal Antonio Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers, as part of the Year of Mercy.
The date marks the 102nd World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Pope Francis has chosen as its theme “Migrants and refugees challenge us: the response of the Gospel of Mercy.”