Lombardi editorial: Fire in prison

2012-02-17 Vatican Radio

In his weekly editorial Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. reflects on the Comayagua tragedy:

There was news, this week, that deeply challenges our capacity for compassion: The news of the fire in the prison of Comayagua in Honduras, where hundreds of prisoners - not counting the more than 300 wounded - were killed by asphyxiation and burned to death trapped in their cells. Horrific. An agony. An arrow through the heart. More than a third of the prisoners of a jail crowded beyond belief - as too often happens, especially in poorer countries, but not only. It is not the first time. We are reminded of tragedies similar to this in recent years. They are not uncommon. Again in 2004 in Honduras more than a hundred dead in San Pedro Sula. And in Chile, Algeria, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, El Salvador, Tunisia, Argentina, Mexico. If there is a fire in a prison, there is almost always a disaster.

Be aware. The fact that people are wrong does not devoid them of all dignity, it does not justify being brutalized in a climate of violence that degrades not only them but also those who often have to manage them and makes any rehabilitation virtually impossible.

The African Synod document published by the Pope in Benin evokes the terrible condition of prisoners in Africa, but the visits of the Popes to Roman prisons, the most recent two months ago to Rebibbia, have always focused our attention on the circumstances and serious problems of prisoners around the world, remembering how their conditions are fact a measure of the level of civilization of different countries. Moreover, the Gospel reminds us in no uncertain terms that this will be one of the criteria of judgment of God upon us: "I was in prison and you visited me - I was in prison and you did NOT come to me." Comayagua’s disfigured dead, in reality, represent the face of Christ for each of us.