Pope encourages jailed Brazilian ex-president 'not to lose hope'

CartaPapaFranciscoLula 29052019 Letter from Pope Francis to former Brazilian president Lula. | Courtesy/lula.com.br

Pope Francis has written a letter to jailed former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, encouraging him to respect human life and freedom, and exhorting the politician to trust in Jesus Christ.

Popularly known as "Lula," Brazil's former president is serving a nearly nine year prison sentence for money laundering and other corruption charges.

The Vatican Secretary of State confirmed the authenticity of the letter.

The May 3 letter was sent by Pope Francis in response to an "attentive letter" from the former president of Brazil, in which "Lula" thanked the Holy Father for his contribution to the defense of human rights and offered the pope an assessment of Brazil's political situation.

In his reply, Pope Francis reminded Inacio that "political responsibility constitutes a permanent challenge for all those who are mandated to serve their country, to protect the people who live in it. and to work to create conditions for a decent and just future."

"Like my predecessors, I am convinced that politics can become an eminent form of charity, if it is implemented in the fundamental respect for life, freedom and dignity of people," Pope Francis wrote.

"Lula" is an influential figure in Brazil, despite his incarceration. The founder of Brazil's first major socialist party, he was the country's president from 2003 until 2010.

He led Brazil during a period of significant economic growth and significantly expanded social welfare programs for the poor. However, Inacio's administration was controversial among Catholics, especially because of his support for legally protected abortion and for an increasingly secularized approach to issues related to marriage and the family.

The former president also sparked controversy because of his engagement with the Iranian government, especially his role in the transfer of Iranian uranium in 2010.

Inacio's administration was scandal plagued. The president and other officials faced charges of vote-buying, political cronyism, influence peddling, and accepting bribes. In 2017, the former president was convicted of charges stemming from the allegation that he had accepted bribes while in office.

The pope urged "Lula" to trust in Christ's resurrection, noting that "thanks to Him we can pass from darkness to Light; from the enslavement of this world to the freedom of the promised Earth; from the sin that separates us from God and from the brothers to the friendship that unites us to Him; from unbelief and despair to the serene and profound joy of those who believe that, in the end, good will overcome evil, truth will overcome lies, and salvation will overcome condemnation."

Addressing the recent deaths of the former president's wife and brother, the pope expressed "spiritual closeness" to him, and exhorted him "not to be discouraged and to continue trusting in God."

"As I assure you of my prayer so that, in this Easter time of joy, the Light of the Risen Christ summons you with hope, I beg you not to stop praying for me," concluded Pope Francis.

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