30-March-2013 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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The Shepherd Goes in Search of the Lost Sheep

Youth Moved by Pope Francis Visit to Juvenile Detention Center

By Antonio Gaspari

VATICAN CITY, March 29, 2013 (Zenit.org) - The Pope's words were brief, intense and gentle. His gestures were humble and loving, as he knelt to wash, dry and kiss the feet of twelve young people, among whom were two Muslims and two girls. The scene touched the heart of all those present and also those who followed the account broadcasted by Vatican Radio.

Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., said that all were moved when the Pope, kneeling on both knees, washed, dried and kissed their feet and looked with intense and loving affection at the twelve youngsters.

During the sign of peace, all the detained youngsters went to embrace Pope Francis; many of them visibly moved.

The Pope was at his ease, as if in a family environment. Beyond his geographic and religious origin, the Pontiff responded to the youths' unambiguous embrace with extreme joy and warmth.

Cardinal Agostino Vallini said that the "look and affection of the Pope touched everyone."

Paola Severino, the Italian Minister of Justice, said she was very moved by the Pontiff's explanation of the term custodire, to guard.

Reading a piece that a boy wrote, the Minister said that the Pope "is the first guardian of their hope," because young people "dream that their future life can be simple and honest."

Minister Severino said she saw so much love in the Pope's eyes, and it is such love of which these youth are in need to return healed to society. "They can do it," she concluded, they can do it, today you [the youth] have received a great help and we are all very grateful to you [Holy Father] for this," she concluded.

Pope Francis thanked the Minister, the authorities and, in particular, the young men and women for their welcome.

"I am happy to be with you. Go forward, alright? And do not let yourselves be robbed of hope, do not let yourselves be robbed of hope! Understood? Always with hope," he stressed.

In the course of his meeting with the prison staff, which took place in the gym, the Pope gave Easter eggs and dove-shaped Easter cakes, and the young men and women gave the Bishop of Rome a prie-dieu and a wooden cross they made at the detention center's workshop.

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