During this pandemic, as quarantine brings the world to a standstill, the chaplains and volunteers at the Regina Coeli Prison in Rome continue their work of solidarity and pastoral commitment. Indeed, their activities have only intensified, due to the growing need for moral, spiritual and social assistance, both inside and outside the prison.
This twenty-five minute documentary film tells the story of the pastoral care being provided at the prison. The ministry involved is characteristic of the solidarity and social work being carried out by the Italian Province of St. Francis of Assisi (Central Italy). The film focuses on “unconfined charity” (the title of the documentary) and branches out to explore the various forms of assistance being offered to the destitute people of God living in Rome’s Trastevere district.
The ministry started many years ago, when the Order’s former Province of Rome launched this charitable effort in 1947, led by the first chaplain, Friar Luigi CEFALONI. It still continues today, led by two chaplains: Friars Vittorio TRANI (since 1978) and Renzo DEGNI (since 2017) from the San Giacomo Friary in Rome. Inside the prison, this charitable work is performed with the help of 150 volunteers. Outside the prison, the work is done by the Regina Coeli Volunteer Center. For the last ten years, the Center has carried out a number of charitable initiatives to benefit the hundreds of ex-convicts, street people and homeless persons who live under the bridges of the Tiber River.
The documentary was produced by the Franciscan Missionary Center ONLUS [Non-Profit Organization for Social Use]. The film describes the intense work the friars do inside the prison and explains the various initiatives carried out by the Volunteer Center, namely, providing nighttime lodgings for twenty destitute people and distributing breakfast and dinner to thirty local poor people. However, due to the coronavirus, the Center is now feeding more than sixty homeless people. The Center operates a “street pharmacy” from which it distributes food parcels, clothes and medicines. It provides access to a clinic with two volunteer doctors and offers legal and financial assistance. For three years now, the “Casa del Papà”, a 12-bed “Dads’ House,” has been in operation at the Parish of Santa Dorotea in Rome, where accommodations are made available, free of charge, to the fathers of children with serious clinical problems who have been admitted to Bambino Gesù Hospital in Rome. To date, some 400 dads have been hosted.
This documentary was directed by Friar Paolo FIASCONARO and filmed by Roberto DAMIATA. It contains interviews with the chaplains, the prison director, some doctors and various volunteers. The film ends with images of Pope Francis washing of the feet of twelve prisoners on Holy Thursday of 2018, and the papal audience granted to the staff of the Regina Coeli Prison, which was held at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican.
Friar Paolo FIASCONARO