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Pope Francis Holds Special Jubilee Mass for Prisoners in St. Peter’s Basilica, urges Political Leaders across the world to respect Dignity of Inmates

Francis held a special Jubilee Mass Sunday for some 1,000 prisoners from 12 countries and their families, as well as prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter's Basilica

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Pope Francis celebrates the Holy Mass for the Jubilee of inmates, at St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Nov. 6, 2016. VOA
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November 7, 2016: Pope Francis urged political leaders across the world to respect the dignity of inmates and offer them amnesty whenever possible.

Francis held a special Jubilee Mass Sunday for some 1,000 prisoners from 12 countries and their families, as well as prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Sometimes, a certain hypocrisy leads to people considering you only as wrongdoers, for whom prison is the sole answer,” Francis said in his homily.

Francis called for “a criminal justice system that is not exclusively punitive, but is open to the hope and the possibility of re-inserting the offender into society.”

“I wish to reiterate the importance to reflect on the need for a criminal justice system that is not exclusively punitive, but is open to the hope and the possibility of re-inserting the offender into society,” he said. “In a special way, I submit to the consideration of the competent civilian authorities in every country the opportunity to make, in this Holy Year of Mercy, an act of clemency towards those prisoners who will be considered eligible to benefit from this measure.”

The pope told the inmates that all people “have made mistakes” and urged them to never give up hope in God’s mercy.

The event was part of the Vatican’s Holy Year of Mercy, which comes to an end later this month, and was followed by Francis’ traditional Sunday “Angelus” blessing in St. Peter’s Square, where tens of thousands of worshippers had gathered, despite the morning rain.

Francis has called for a world-wide abolition of the death penalty and also opposes life in prison without parole.

The pontiff declared 2016 a special “Holy Year of Mercy” because he wants the Church’s 1.2 billion members to be more merciful and less rigid towards sinners during this holy year, also known as a Jubilee.

Roman Catholic holy years usually occur every 25 years, the last one being in 2000, but popes may call extraordinary ones to draw attention to particular issues or momentous events. (VOA)

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Goodbye Holy Smoke, Vatican City bans Sale of Cigarettes

The Vatican, a tiny walled city-state surrounded by Rome, is one of the few states to ban smoking.

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sale of cigarettes
The faithful gather in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. VOA

Vatican City, November 10, 2017 : Pope Francis has ordered a ban on the sale of cigarettes inside the Vatican from next year because of health concerns, a spokesman said on Thursday.

“The motive is very simple: the Holy See cannot be cooperating with a practice that is clearly harming the health of people,” spokesman Greg Burke said in a statement.

He cited World World Health Organization (WHO) statistics that smoking causes more than seven million deaths worldwide every year.

Cigarettes have been sold at a discounted price to Vatican employees and pensioners.

Vatican employees are allowed to buy five cartons of cigarettes a month. Many Italians ask their non-smoking friends who work in the Vatican to buy cigarettes for them because they cost much less than in Italy, where they are subject to heavy taxes.

Burke acknowledged that the sale of cigarettes has been a source of revenue for the Holy See, adding, “However, no profit can be legitimate if it is costing people their lives.”

The spokesman said the sale of large cigars would continue at least for the time being because the smoke is not inhaled.

The Vatican, a tiny walled city-state surrounded by Rome, is one of the few states to ban smoking. Bhutan, where smoking is deemed bad for one’s karma, banned the sale of tobacco in 2005. (VOA)