A female prisoner in Chile was surprised by receiving a personal letter last week from Pope Francis imploring her to retain "the strength that comes from hope," a year after she wrote to him asking for his prayers.
The Catholic News Agency reported that on 27 July, the local bishop Luis Infanti visited the prison in Coyhaique, in the Aysén Region in southern Chile and gave the reply to the prisoner, called Nicol.
The Pope had reportedly immediately replied to the young woman's letter, which she was advised to write a year ago by the Apostolic Nuncio, Ivo Scapolo, when he was visiting the prison. The Nuncio promised to deliver the letter to the Pope personally.
A reply came to the Nunciature but due to what the Diocese described as unavoidable circumstances its delivery to the prison was delayed by a year.
Nicol described the prison's conditions and her sentence and asked "that you pray a lot for me and for the people living here with me," she told the Diocese of Aysén's communications office.
In his reply, the Pope expressed thanked Nicol for "the trust you have shown me as well as for the prayers you are lifting up for me from your solitude, and that I need so much."
Pope Francis added: "For my part, I assure you that I am keeping you in my prayers, as well as your son Fernando, and I ask God to grant you the light of faith and the strength that comes from hope, and that you can experience the consolation of our merciful God in the closeness of the people you love."
The Pope requested that the woman continued to pray for him. "Once again, I thank you for your letter. And, please, I ask you to keep praying for me," he wrote. "May Jesus bless you and the Holy Virgin care for you." The letter is signed "Affectionately, Francisco."
"I didn't think he was going to reply," Nicol said.