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Pope meets 19 inmates inside Vatican dormitory

Blesses each individually in 'beautiful, moving' encounter

19 February, 13:11
Pope meets 19 inmates inside Vatican dormitory (updates previous) (ANSA) - Vatican City, February 19 - Pope Francis on Wednesday met with 19 inmates from Italian prisons at the Saint Martha's dormitory where he lives at the Vatican. Francis individually greeted and blessed each prisoner, all of whom came from jails in Pisa and the prison island of Pianosa. Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary of the synod of bishops and soon-to-be cardinal, said the encounter lasted over 45 minutes and called it "beautiful" and "moving".

Since his elevation to the papacy last March, Francis has made numerous visits to jails, including to a juvenile-detention center in Rome on Maundy Thursday, the Thursday before Easter, to wash the feet of inmates just weeks after being named pope.

On Wednesday, the 19 inmates were accompanied by prison chaplains on a pilgrimage to Rome, which included Mass in the Vatican Grottoes, below St Peter's Basilica where scores of popes are buried. Baldisseri said Francis invited them to an audience only after their arrival. "The pope wanted to greet them and bless them one by one.

They were very encouraged. It was a sign of great spiritual fatherhood," he said.