Pope's mercy message 'influences' Pakistan to release prisoners

Kamran Michael, the only Christian minister in the federal Cabinet, has overseen the process that has already begun
Pope's mercy message 'influences' Pakistan to release prisoners

A Pakistani policeman talks with an inmate at a jail in Karachi on Nov. 25, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Pakistan will pardon more than 100 prisoners before Christmas thanks to the intercession of a top Catholic official who was inspired by Pope Francis message during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Federal Minister for Human Rights Kamran Michael, a Catholic and the only Christian minister in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's cabinet, has overseen the process that has already begun with the release of inmates who have been imprisoned for minor offenses. Another policy is in the works which will reduce the number of prisoners overall and ensure better conditions, Michael said.

"Sixty-three prisoners, most of them Muslims, have already been released from Central Jail Faisalabad. The Human Rights ministry will pay bail for eight more who have completed their sentences. Prisoners from the central jail in Lahore will also be released this year while those in the southern Sindh province will be freed in coming months," said Father Nisar Barkat, director of the Faisalabad diocesan commission for interreligious dialogue and ecumenism.

It was Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad, who pitched the idea to the minister when he visited the national Marian shrine in Mariamabad village in September.

"I requested him to work for the relief of prisoners and consider their human rights. I thank the government for listening," said the bishop who is also chairperson of the Catholic bishops' national commission for justice and peace.

"The value of mercy is not only for Christians but everyone. It was courageous of the senator to follow the good message of Pope Francis," he added,  

The pope celebrated the Jubilee for Prisoners at St. Peter's Basilica on Nov. 6, during which he reminded inmates to never lose hope or fall into thinking they can never be forgiven.

Freeing the prisoners is the latest church act for the Jubilee Year of Mercy which ended on Nov. 20, the feast of Christ the King.  Caritas Pakistan recently distributed crutches, white canes and walking frames. Top church officials have also visited the sick and elderly throughout the year.

Pope Francis declared the "Year of Mercy" encouraging people to "be merciful like the Father." Pope Francis declared an "Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy" beginning Dec. 8 on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.  

Pope Francis recently urged each and every person to perform at least one work of mercy on a daily basis. All it takes is just one person carrying out one simple, loving act of mercy every day to start a revolution and stamp out the "virus of indifference," media reported the pope as saying.

Sharing God's mercy is not about expending a huge amount of effort or performing "superhuman" acts, he said during his general audience Oct. 12 at St. Peter's Square.

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