In an open letter addressed to each of the world’s Heads of State, Pope Francis implored world leaders to exercise a “gesture of clemency” towards prisoners. Borrowing language from his 2016 Jubilee for Prisoners, the pope stated the value of human dignity applies to even those who violate the law in the hopes that governments would act in favor of improving the living conditions of prisons throughout the world.
“We must make this gesture of clemency towards our brothers and sisters who are deprived of their liberty and who are eligible to benefit from such a provision,” Pope Francis said. “...So that this time marked by tensions, injustice, and conflicts may be opened to the grace that comes from the Lord.”
This language is consistent with the pope’s recurring emphasis on the fact that the goals of criminal justice systems should not merely be punitive, but rather extend to measures that can help criminals better themselves and become benevolent members of society. In his message, Pope Francis reminded all world leaders, regardless of faith, that regardless of the sin committed, “God always forgives.”