Pope asks authorities to grant clemency for prisoners during Jubilee

Pope Francis receives a cross made by an inmate at the CeReSo n 3 prison in Ciudad Juarez Mexico Feb 17 2016 Credit LOsservatore Romano CNA Pope Francis receives a cross made by an inmate at the CeReSo n. 3 prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 17, 2016. | L'Osservatore Romano.

After celebrating Mass for prisoners in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Francis in his Angelus address appealed for better prison conditions and asked that as part of the Jubilee of Mercy, competent global authorities would consider granting clemency to eligible inmates.

"I would like to make an appeal for better conditions in prison life, so that the human dignity of the detained is fully respected," the Pope said Nov. 6.

He emphasized the importance of the need for a criminal justice "which isn't just punitive, but open to hope and the re-insertion of the offender into society."

"In a special way, I submit to the consideration of the competent civil authorities the possibility to make, during this Holy Year of Mercy, an act of clemency toward those prisoners deemed eligible to benefit from such a measure."

Legally speaking, clemency is a power given to a public official, such as a mayor, governor or the president, to in some way modify or lower the harshness of a punishment or sentence imposed on a prisoner.

While the crime committed is not completely forgotten as in cases of amnesty, they are forgiven and treated more leniently.

Pope Francis made his appeal after having celebrated Mass for some 4,000 people participating in a special Nov. 5-6 Jubilee for Prisoners inside of St. Peter's Basilica, among whom were 1,000 inmates from 12 countries around the world.

Before leading pilgrims in the Angelus, the Pope pointed to the day's readings, which speak of the essential Christian belief in the resurrection from the dead.

In his address, Francis noted that life after death "will be different from that on earth." In responding to the Sadducees, who didn't believe in the resurrection and tried to trick him, Jesus not only reaffirms the resurrection, but shows that "it's not possible to apply the categories of this world to the realities that go beyond and are bigger than what we see in this life."

"Jesus intends to explain that in this world we live in a provisionary reality that ends," he said, explaining that after our resurrection, "we will no longer have death as a horizon and we will live entirely, even human bonds, in the dimension of God, in a transfigured way."

Pope Francis stressed that heaven isn't reserved for just "the privileged few," but is intended for all men and women, because in dying on the Cross, the salvation Jesus bought is for each one of us.

Our life will be similar to that of the angels, dedicated completely to the light and praise of God, he said, but cautioned against viewing the resurrection as something we experience only after death. It's something "that we already experience today" and is the final victory we can anticipate.

"The resurrection is fundamental to the Christian faith," he said, adding that if there were no reference to eternal life, "Christianity would be reduced to an ethic, a philosophy of life."

Rather, the message of Christian faith comes from heaven and "is revealed by God and goes beyond this world," the Pope continued.

"To believe in the resurrection is essential, so that each of our actions of Christian love is not ephemeral and doesn't end in itself, but becomes a seed destined to bloom in the garden of God and produce fruit for eternal life."

After leading pilgrims in praying the traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis noted how just two days ago the Paris Climate Agreement, a fruit of the COP21 Summit in Paris last year, went into effect.

Calling the accord an "important step forward," he said it demonstrates that "humanity has the ability to collaborate for the safeguarding of creation, to put the economy at the service of the people and to build peace and justice."

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Francis pointed to a new climate summit set to open tomorrow, in Marrakech, Morocco, which is aimed, among other things, at the implementation of the Paris agreement. He voiced his hope that the process would be "guided by the awareness of our responsibility for the care of the common home."

Before concluding, he also noted how 38 martyrs were proclaimed Blessed in Albania Saturday, consisting of two bishops, several priests, a seminarian and some lay persons, all of whom were victims "of the strong persecution of the atheistic regime that long dominated that country in the previous century."

"These ones preferred to undergo imprisonment, torture and in the end death, in order to remain faithful to Christ and to the Church," he said, adding that their example "helps us to find in the Lord the strength that sustains us in difficult moments and which inspires attitudes of goodness, forgiveness and peace."

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