Rodrigo has never told a priest that his first job as a hit man took place with only 12 years and ensures that the possibility of confessing with Pope Francisco, when the pontiff visits in January this juvenile detention center in Panama, just let sleep fall.
Sitting in front of an easel in the painting classroom and finishing off a watercolor painting, the young man full of tattoos recognizes that the Pope's trip is helping him to "see things differently" and to overcome the recent death of his brother at the hands of a rival gang. His custodians say that every time he talks less about "revenge".
"My mother is very happy, she does not believe that she will be so close to the Pope," he told Efe while playing with a plastic rosary around his neck.
The Center for Enforcement of Minors of Pacora, northeast of the Panamanian capital, will be one of the places that the pope will visit during the World Youth Day (WYD), an event that every three years brings the pontiff together with young people from all over the world. world and that will be held for the first time in Panama from January 22 to 27, 2019.
"The Pope is looking for people who really need to be touched, he is going to confess to three extremely dangerous children and Rodrigo (fictitious name for security reasons) is one of those we have proposed," said the head of the detention centers of minors from Panama, Emma Alba.
The pope will give a mass in a small and diaphanous structure at the entrance to the center, which functions as a chapel and which a group of young people is busy these days decorating and painting under an inclement sun. Another handful of children play the guitar in a corner and rehearse a religious theme that will be sung during the event.
After the liturgy, Francisco will listen to three teenagers in one of the wooden confessionals that inmates have manufactured in an adjacent adult prison.
Fernando, detained for three years for attempted murder but about to go free, covers his head with a shirt to protect himself from the sun while painting the logo of the WYD on one of the walls of the chapel.
"When I leave, I will continue with my life, but to the good, I made a mistake, I reformed and I will move forward", affirmed this young man who is not Catholic, but who says he is equally excited because "the Pope is one of the people Most important in the world".
"In this prison the evangelicals proliferate, but we have told them that the pope does not come alone to see the believers, he comes to pass on a message of peace to the youth." Many of our boys have begun to believe that seeing the pope can reach transform their lives, "the official said in statements to Acan-Efe.
Jean Carlo, another of the boys in the painting workshop, finishes his sentence a week before the pope's visit, but has asked permission from the prison's management to return that day: "I hope they will let me attend his mass," he said.
The young inmates, most of them former gang members, are preparing the pontiff several gifts, among which there is a picture with motifs alluding to Panama, a wooden cane, a footrest and a bread made with a recipe typical of Argentina , your country of origin.
"She's going to go with her hands full of gifts, the boys are working with a lot of love," said the director of the center, Lidia Castañeda.
Francisco's visit has generated immense interest not only in Panama but throughout Central America, since the last pontiff who traveled to the region was John Paul II in 1983.
The pope's agenda also includes mass masses, meetings with pilgrims and volunteers, meetings with the Panamanian Government and the Central American bishopric and a visit to a social shelter.