In a new television interview aired on Sunday, Pope Francis spoke to four people who have faced difficult life circumstances, including a mother of four children who was a victim of domestic violence.
“It is so, so large the number of women beaten, abused in the home, even by their husband. The problem is that for me it’s almost satanic, because it’s taking advantage of the weakness of someone who cannot defend themselves,” the pope said, in response to a question from an Italian woman named Giovanna.
Giovanna and three other people were featured on the Italian channel TG5 on Dec. 19. During the 45-minute-long special, called “Pope Francis and the Invisible People,” the pope answered questions from Giovanna, who also lost her home and job during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He encouraged her to remember her dignity, pointing to the image of Michelangelo’s Pieta, which depicts the sorrowful Mary holding her dead and naked son, Jesus. “You have dignity, you have the face, the suffering face of one who carries on life, her own and that of her children,” he told her.
Pope Francis also spoke with Maria, a homeless woman who slept on the street for years; Maristella, an 18-year-old isolated by the pandemic; and Pierdonato, who spent 25 years in prison after being given two life sentences.
Pierdonato said after study and reflection in prison, he had “an inner spiritual journey.”
He said after reflecting deeply on his past actions, “I have come to terms with myself.”
“I was in prison for 25 years, that Pierdonato of 30 years ago no longer exists, I am another person,” he said. “Repentance, in the deepest sense of the term from the Christian point of view, is a repentance that concerns the repentant person who is the most bitter accuser of himself and wants nothing in return. He regrets what he did.”
Pierdonato asked Pope Francis: “is there hope for those who want to change?”
The pope responded with the words of Romans 5:5, “hope never disappoints.”
“The first thing that comes to my mind is a sentence from the Bible,” he said. “There is God, not in orbit, but God next to you, because God’s style is closeness, compassion and tenderness.”
Pope Francis said God is with every prisoner: “God always forgives, God always forgives. Let’s get this into our heads, whatever sin I have done he forgives it because he came to forgive not condemn.”
He challenged people not to judge condemned criminals, but to look inside themselves, where they will “find many faults, many things, many sins, many mistakes, many things that are not beautiful.”
“But our strength lies in the hope of this God who is close, compassionate and tender,” he said.
Pope Francis closed the program with an appeal to viewers to focus on Jesus during Christmas.
“I wish you, all of you who are at home, I wish you a Christmas with Jesus, a true Christmas,” he said. “Does this mean we can’t eat? We can’t party? No, celebrate, eat everything, but do it with Jesus, that is, with peace in your heart.”
“And to all of you who listen to me I wish you a Merry Christmas. Celebrate, give gifts, but don’t forget Jesus.”