Meeting with a delegation of inmates on Sunday during his pastoral visit to Sulmona, Italy, Pope Benedict XVI sent his prayers to all the prisoners. He hoped that, despite their difficult situation, they might find a way to contribute to society.
The Vatican's semi-official L'Osservatore Romano (LOR) newspaper printed the Pope's words to the five inmates, who were accompanied by the prison's director, security personnel and their chaplain.
Benedict XVI explained to them that he had wished to meet with them so they could take his greeting back to the other prisoners, which LOR reported as being 420 in all.
He told them, "You are always close and I pray that the Lord help you on this difficult path: I will carry you in my heart and, from my heart, I hope that you can find the way to make a contribution to society, according to your capacities and the gifts that God has given you."
The Pope then assured them that they are "always present" in his prayers.
According to the report, their meeting lasted about 10 minutes, during which time he always shared private words with them.
Sunday's meeting was preceded by the inauguration of a newly restored house for elderly and sick priests, given the name "Benedict XVI."