Prisoners use lunch with Pope Francis as a chance to escape

Pope Francis washing feet in a young offenders institution in 2013Reuters

Two prisoners who were invited to meet Pope Francis for lunch on his visit to Bologna earlier this month took advantage of the occasion to escape, according to AFP which cited local media reports.

The two men, who were being held in a rehabilitation facility for drug addicts and prisoners near Modena, were reportedly among 20 prisoners who were due to meet the Pope on October 1.

They reportedly disappeared just before the lunch of lasagne was served and have not been seen since, according to the reports. Local authorities have neither confirmed nor denied the reports.

Pope Francis has frequently spoken about the need for mercy towards prisoners since his papacy began in 2013. He has regularly visited prisons and last Easter washed the feet of prisoners at a facility outside Rome.

According to one report yesterday in the Bologna-based newspaper Il Resto del Carlino, the event from which the inmates escaped was at the Basilica of San Petronio.

Volunteers reportedly alerted the police immediately. The two fugitives were identified as Neapolitans.

Castelfranco Emilia, the social reintegration facility that formerly housed the escapees, houses drug addicts and people who require supervision for being a danger to public safety. It is unclear which group the two inmates were part of.