Pope visits women’s prison on first day in Chile

On the first day of his week-long trip to Chile and Peru, Pope Francis visited a women’s prison in Santiago.

He told inmates at the San Joaquin prison that they should not lose hope or their dignity just because they have lost their freedom.

He said: “Losing freedom does not mean losing our dreams and hopes. No one can take away your dignity.”

He stressed the need to reject all of the “petty clichés” that tells us “we can’t change, that it’s not worth trying, that nothing will make a difference.

“No, dear sisters! Some things do make a difference,” he said.

“All those efforts we make to build for a better future – even if often it seems they just go down the drain – all of them will surely bear fruit and be rewarded.”

The Pope noted that a jail sentence can seem like a punishment with no opportunities for personal growth. “This is not good,” he said, explaining that initiatives aimed at job training and the restoration of relationships are “signs of hope for the future.”

What seemed to stir the Pope the most were remarks by Janeth Zurita, one of the inmates.

She apologised to those who have been harmed by the misdeeds of the inmates, saying: “Pope Francis, we ask for forgiveness to those whom we’ve hurt with our crimes. We know that God forgives us but we also ask the forgiveness of society.”

The San Joaquin women’s prison in Santiago was founded by religious sisters from the Congregation of the Good Shepherd in 1864. Up until 1980, the prison had no more than 160 inmates. However, with the increase in drug trafficking and the use of narcotics, by 2000 the prison had around 1,400 inmates. It has around 4,000 inmates today.

Find out what else Pope Francis' has been up to on his journey of Peru and Chile here.

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