Inmates and guards were on the same side of the bars Sunday as Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in a Roman prison, repeating his call for clemency for prisoners worldwide.
    "In the name of Jesus who came to liberate us, I ask authorities for a sign of clemency toward all prisoners," the pontiff said during his pastoral visit to Regina Coeli, the Italian capital's oldest prison. The words echoed his 30 June message on clemency and better prison conditions.
    During the homily, one prisoner held up a sign saying in Spanish: "God loves everyone. Clemency."
    The pontiff was surrounded by about 75 prisoners and twice as many guards. Among them were a group of women from another Roman prison. Nine inmates served as altar boys; 14 others made up the choir.
    "Punishment, prison only make sense if, while affirming the needs of justice and discouraging crime, they serve man's renewal," John Paul said. He said prisons must offer inmates "the possibility to reflect and change their life, in order to fully become part of the civil society."
11 July 00

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