Friday, December 13, 2013

Padua prison inmates send Francis Italian panettoni for Christmas

The Pope with a young prisoner in BrazilAll it takes is one look at their faces to really under stand the meaning of the Pope’s words: “Where there is no work there is no dignity!”

At the Due Palazzi prison on the outskirts of the Italian city of Padua these words could not be truer. 

Every year, the prison’s inmates crank out more than 60,000 panettoni, Italian sweet bread loaves traditionally eaten at Christmas. 

The inmates use award-winning recipes to make these sweet treats. 

Most importantly though, their work helps them regain confidence day by day because someone has bet on them and on their ability to start over.

At the Due Palazzi prison outside Padua there are three inmates to each cell that is meant for one person. Behind the prison walls is a fine pastry making lab, as well as some building where bicycles are assembles and luggage components manufactured and a call centre. 

At Christmas time the bicycle assembly line is used to prepare the packaging for the panettoni which are shipped not just al lover Italy but to other parts of the world such as France, the UK, Germany, Spain, China, Taiwan and The Antilles.
  “It’s an early start for the inmates that work in the pastry lab,” says Nicola Boscoletto, the president of the Giotto social co-operative. 

“At 6.30 am it’s time to prepare, bake and package the panettoni. For those doing time, being able to work means having a new way to pass the time. But it also gives inmates the chance to learn a new profession… and return to a normal life. We always strive to give people dignity… A man is not his mistakes.”

Benedict XVI was the first Pope to place an order in for 250 Christmas treats produced by Giotto’s prisoner workforce. 

Given that it’s Vatican spending review time, it was thought that the Pope would not be placing an order this year. 

But Francis decided to continue the tradition  and will be offering a number of home made Christmas sweets, prepared by the prisoners. 

Bergoglio’s fondness for the prisoners is no secret: every eleven days, on a Sunday, he calls up a group of them who are being held in an Argentinean establishment. 

“When I telephone the prisoners I ask myself: “Why not me? … Why did he fall and I didn’t? Because we have the same weaknesses and for me it is a mystery that makes me pray and brings me closer to the,” Francis told the prison chaplains.

“We are so grateful to Francis for continuing this tradition. It means so much to our inmates. The cooperative employs 120 prisoners, 15 of them externally. Apart from the pastry lab there is also a catering service that employs another 25 prisoners,” Mr. Boscoletto stated.

“Unfortunately, of Italy’s 67,000 inmates, only 700-800 have a proper job. If each inmate costs the State €250 a day, that’s €100,000 a year, one can see how important prison jobs are and how important it is to invest economic resources in this,” Mr. Boscoletto added.

Other specialities prepared by Giotto’s patissiers include home made biscuits, breadsticks, focaccia bread, Italian Easter cakes, sweets inspired by St. Anthony and other traditional treats.

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