Pope Francis met on Friday with a Catholic non-profit that promotes human dignity through artistic projects, including by providing prisoners with work making handcrafted violins or hosts for the Eucharist.
The encounter included musical and artistic performances.
On its website, the foundation, which supports projects worldwide, says that its “aim is to recover the dignity of the people involved by letting them express their talents through cultural and artistic paths.”
The non-profit is focused on prisoners, migrants, disadvantaged youth, and other marginalized people.
“Every project of the Foundation springs from the desire and the intention to carry out, within the Catholic Church and at its service, the same collaboration and harmony hoped for by the Second Vatican Council between priests and lay people, to witness together Christ as the Light of the world,” it says.
One of the foundation’s projects is called “the meaning of Bread.” It supports the production of hosts to be used for the Eucharist at Mass. The workshops, which can be found all over the world, provide employment to prisoners, women who have escaped exploitation, people with disabilities, the poor, and youth recovering from addiction.
There is also a lutherie and carpentry workshop in Milan’s Opera Prison, Italy’s largest detainment center, where most prisoners are serving life sentences.
Lutherie is the craft of building or repairing stringed instruments, such as violins. The carpentry shop also produces wooden Nativity sets.
The goal is to give prisoners training in skilled work which can also help them reintegrate into society after leaving prison.
Pope Francis praised the foundation for being a seed of hope and supporting projects that combat the widespread culture of waste.
“Instead, you are trying to build, with the ‘discarded stones,’ a house where one can breathe an atmosphere of social friendship and fraternity,” he said.
He emphasized that though every person has his or her sins, failures, and limits, “God’s mercy is greater, and if we welcome each other as brothers and sisters, he forgives us and helps us move forward.”