The following comes from a March 4 CNN article by Michael Martinez and Jaqueline Hurtado:
Convicted juvenile Carlos Adrian Vazquez Jr. lost the will to live at age 16 as he began serving an 11-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter.
Then he wrote a letter to Pope Francis.
“I asked for forgiveness for what I did,” Vazquez told CNN en Español in an interview inside juvenile jail.
“Dear Carlos,” the Pope wrote, “May the peace of Jesus Christ be with you! I was pleased to receive your recent letter. …”
The youth was stunned. “I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think the Pope would write to someone who’s behind bars,” said Vazquez, now 18.
The Pope’s letter continued. He spoke of “a Holy Door to Mercy” being opened at the juvenile jail, in a ceremony led by the Los Angeles archbishop.
“I pray that as you and your fellow residents celebrate the opening of the Holy Door, you may receive these gifts and be filled with peace and hope,” the Pope wrote. “Know that the Holy Father is thinking of you and praying for you. And please remember to pray for me, because I greatly need your prayers.”
The exchange of letters is the latest example of the Pope’s new mission of mercy. He has been reaching out to juvenile and adult inmates as part of his Jubilee of Mercy this year.
Deeply touched by the Pope’s January 21 letter, Vazquez no longer wants to end his life, he says.
“It gave me a lot of hope knowing that there are people like the Pope who still have not given up on us. I know I’ve made mistakes and have hurt people, but what I learned in my two years and five months I’ve been imprisoned, I didn’t know I was hurting people and that I was hurting myself, too,” Vazquez said.
He also wrote a letter to the slain victim’s family.
“I ask them to forgive me and told them no words would ever give them back the life I destroyed, but I hope one day they can forgive me for my actions and now I just ask for forgiveness and I want to live the life that my victim didn’t have a chance to live and be good,” he said.