The following comes from a January 6 Angelus article by R.W. Dellinger:

“Hey, what’s going on down there?” came from above on Christmas morning.

The query rose above shouts, whistles and catcalls: “The (vulgarity) pope is here!”

Then Archbishop José H. Gomez started walking down narrow cellblock 3100B.

“Merry Christmas. Here’s a little gift,” the archbishop said, reaching through a rectangular opening in the chipped green bars. He handed a tattooed-from-the-waist inmate wearing only boxer shorts paperback copies of “Jesus the Risen Prisoner” and “Walking with Joy with Pope Francis.”

Most in the high security block were already at the front of their cramped quarters as Archbishop Gomez approached each cell. Almost all wished him a “Merry Christmas.”

Cell 19 was all decked out in milk and juice cartons. The tall inmate’s eyes welled up when the archbishop handed him the books. Gripping the green bars, he moaned, “I want to get out of here.” After listening for a couple minutes, Archbishop Gomez patted his hands before leaving the cell block.

Earlier on Christmas morning, the archbishop had celebrated Mass for a larger group of inmates, ranging from higher-to-lower-security prisoners in Men’s Central Jail’s white-walled chapel, with its humble altar and plain cross behind it.

L.A. County deputies in their khaki-and-forest-green uniforms stood during the liturgy. And they were there before, while the regular weekly choir from St. Agatha Church led the locked-up congregation singing Christmas carols like “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Joy to the World.” Inmates in mostly light green and dark blue loose jump suits followed the Scripture readings in the “Together for Worship” handout.

Sheriff McDonnell sat right there in the first row. And he was the first to receive Communion.

In his bilingual homily, Archbishop Gomez stressed God’s love for humankind and God’s actual delight in forgiving sinners. “That’s the Christmas message — that God never abandons us,” he said.