VATICAN CITY (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 Saturday (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.
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the choice of kites was significant.
“This is the symbol of possible passage from inside the prisons where the mothers live to the outside, the land of families,” he said.
The visit will be the third such occasion organized for disadvantaged children. The gesture is part of the pontiff’s broader focus on prisoners.
Later this year (Nov 6) the pope will dedicate a day of the Jubilee Year to inmates, with the Vatican looking into the possibility of some prisoners celebrating the event at St. Peter’s Basilica.