ROME — Pope Francis has asked the prisoners, guards and the chaplain of a northern Italian prison to write this year’s Way of the Cross meditations.

In a letter published in the Italian newspaper Il Mattino di Padova March 10, the pope said he chose the parish community of the Due Palazzi prison in Padua so that the meditations would reflect on the lives of those involved in the prison system, including “the victim, the prisoner, the prison officer, the volunteer, the family of those detained, probation officers, the church, and the innocent person who, at times, is unjustly accused.”

“The prison is a kaleidoscope of situations, and there is always a big risk in telling a detail to the detriment of the whole” system, he said. “The resurrection of a person is never the work of an individual, but of a community walking together.”

Each year, the pope asks a different person to write the commentary and prayers for the Way of the Cross. The evening service will take place April 10, Good Friday, at Rome’s Colosseum.

The pope said he chose to announce his choice for the meditations in the local newspaper of Padua because he wanted the announcement “to be a caress to the suffering of these days.”

The northern Italian regions of Lombardy, Emilia Romagna and Veneto, where Padua is located, were the hardest hit areas due to the coronavirus outbreak. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared March 10 that the government was placing the entire country under lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

“I write to you in order to write symbolically to everyone,” the pope explained. “The suffering and death that, as in other parts of Italy, you are experiencing because of the virus is for me a reason for prayer and human closeness.”

“It is also the reason for Christian hope: Even in these moments God is speaking to us,” he said.

Pope Francis, who has read the meditations from the Due Palazzi prison community, said he was “moved” by them and they made him feel “like the brother of those who made mistakes and those who accept to stand beside them.”

“I thank the parish of the prison and, together with them, I thank all those who work for this small world,” the pope said. “God bless the good heart of those who challenge indifference with tenderness.”

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