Image via Wikimedia Commons/RNS

Fifty inmates from a Rome jail were given a private tour of the Vatican Museums on 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.

Photo via REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS

Pope Francis blesses a child at the Vatican on March 14, 2015. Photo via REUTERS / Max Rossi / RNS

Pope Francis wants to treat the children of Italian prisoners to a train ride within the Vatican walls, a gesture intended to draw Catholics’ attention to Jesus’ command to minister to prisoners and the poor.

On May 30, Vatican guards will open a great iron gate to the “Children’s Train,” which will travel along the city-state’s only branch line for an appointment with the pope.

The chosen passengers are the prisoners’ children from Rome, Latina, Bari, and Trani.

They will have a midday meeting with Francis and will be given colored kites.

Photo via Gwoeii /

Silhouette of a prisoner behind a barbed wire fence. Photo via Gwoeii /

Jesus not only knew how to pray; he knew what it was like to be arrested. When he had finished his table prayer, Jesus and his disciples went out across the Kidron valley to a garden. Judas knew about that garden because he and the other disciples often met there with Jesus. This time, Judas didn’t come to pray, but brought a detachment of soldiers and religious police. They arrested Jesus, bound him and took him away to be tried.

Jesus escaped prison only because he was executed by the state the next day. This crucified, risen, and wounded Jesus has returned to the heart of God. He continues to pray for us. Why wouldn’t Jesus be praying also for those who are in prison? Why wouldn’t we?

Jim Wallis 11-27-2012

Attitudes toward capital punishment are changing, including among conservatives.

Martin L. Smith 09-01-2012

Reflections on the Common Lectionary, Cycle B

Joshua Witchger 10-09-2011

Naseem Rakha, author of the 2009 novel The Crying Tree sees justice differently. Rakha, an award-winning journalist whose work has been featured on National Public Radio and elsewhere, has covered two death penalty cases in Oregon -- the only two in that state's history -- and has spent considerable time exploring the deeper story behind capital punishment, retributive justice and forgiveness.

"What I learned from talking to these victims is that there is a place, not called closure, not called moving on, but there is a place of empowerment," Rakha said in a recent interview with God's Politics. "Crime strips people of power, and there's nothing that the justice system or really even churches can give to you to replace that power. It is an act of wanting to sit down and meet with the person who strips that power from you that has transformed people's lives and gotten them to a point where they can forgive the act, because they see the perpetrator no longer as a monster, but as a human that has made a terrible mistake."

Nathan Schneider 07-18-2011

Behind Bars. Fremantle Prisonphoto © 2009 Amanda Slater | more info (via: Wylio)On the first day of this month, inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison, joined by inmates in other prisons around the state, began a hunger strike to protest "inhumane and torturous conditions" in the Security Housing Unit, which holds inmates in solitary confinement for decades at a time. They're still at it; the state has admitted that as many as 6,600 inmates around the state have participated in the strike. Last week, corrections officials offered the prisoners a proposed deal, which they unanimously rejected.

This comes after a Supreme Court decision in May that ordered California to reduce its prison population, as overcrowding was causing "needless suffering and death."

Part of what's making the standoff worse is the belief that the strike is, in essence, a form of gang activity. For one thing, as Colin Dayan noted in passing in a New York Times op-ed, "How they have managed to communicate with each other is anyone's guess." The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), though, isn't so stumped.

Steve Holt 05-17-2011

Much ink has been spilled about the so-called "love songs to Jesus" many of us sing week after week at church.

Duane Shank 11-30-2010
This past Sunday and Monday the news media published their first summaries of the documents they received from WikiLeaks which contained more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.
Maggie Goddard 07-30-2010
"I hate civilians," Warden Clooney barked into the microphone.
Rose Marie Berger 05-07-2010

In my daily prayer book, the morning antiphon for today said: "The Lord chose these holy men for their unfeigned love

Rose Marie Berger 04-12-2010
In any in-depth conversation about the effectiveness of nonviolence as a strategy, this question always comes up: Would these nonviolent strategies have worked against the Nazis?
Ben White 09-24-2009

Earlier this year, I was shown around Jayyous by Mohammad Othman, Youth Coordinator of the Stop the Wall campaign, a nonviolent grassroots movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Rose Marie Berger 06-03-2009
Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba wrote the U.S. Army's report on the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. He was then forced into retirement.
Kaitlin Barker 05-20-2009

I spent my Monday lunch hour, and maybe longer due to D.C. traffic, standing with some 30 protesters across the street from the Burmese embassy, waving signs and shouting at curtained windows. Hundreds of other demonstrators around the world were also protesting on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi.