50 prison inmates tour Vatican Gardens, Sistine Chapel

Since his election in 2013, the pope has met with inmates on a number of occasions and highlighted the need for society to have a more caring approach to prisoners and people on society’s periphery.

last judgement

Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement” inside the Sistine Chapel. RNS photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain (http://bit.ly/156Y0IK)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Fifty inmates from a Rome jail were given a private tour of the Vatican Museums on Sunday (Sept. 13), setting the tone for Pope Francis’ visit to a U.S. prison later this month and emphasizing his concern for people on the margins.

The group from the Rebibbia prison visited the Vatican Gardens and St. Peter’s Basilica, before being given a private tour through the Vatican Museums by Museums Director Antonio Paolucci.

Once the inmates reached the Sistine Chapel, best known for its world-famous Michelangelo’s fresco, the Vatican allowed the prisoners to listen in to the pope’s midday Angelus prayer.

Reflecting on the day, one of the prisoners told Vatican Radio the group was looked after exceptionally well.

The director of Rebibbia prison, Stefano Ricca, said the visit would stay in their hearts and minds for a long time.

“For the inmates, clearly, this takes on a particular value,” he said. “Instead of passing the umpteenth morning inside a penitentiary institute, they could participate in an exclusive visit,” he told Vatican Radio.

The prisoners’ excursion comes two weeks before Francis is due to meet U.S. prisoners in Philadelphia. The visit to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility is scheduled to take place on Sept. 27, the last day of the pontiff’s highly anticipated trip to the U.S.

Since his election in 2013, the pope has met with inmates on a number of occasions and highlighted the need for society to have a more caring approach to prisoners and people on society’s periphery. Francis has dedicated Nov. 6 this year to inmates, as part of the Jubilee Year, which will feature a series of high-profile events organized by the Vatican.

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