In a twist on “leave the gun, take the cannoli,” two Italian prisoners left their lasagna behind using a lunch meeting with Pope Francis as a chance to make their great escape.
During a visit to Bologna on Oct. 1, the pop attended a lunch at Basilica of San Petronio with 20 inmates from a prison near Modena. Before the lasagna was served, volunteers realized two prisoners had flown the coop, Bologna-based newspaper Il Resto del Carlino reported on Wednesday.
Police are asking for the public’s cooperation to find the two Neapolitan fugitives who haven’t surfaced since their dine-and-ditch.
The social reintegration facility Castelfranco Emilia that formerly accommodated the inmates, houses two groups: drug addicts and those who are a danger to public safety and require supervision. Which group the escapees belong to is unclear, according to reports.
Pope Francis is an advocate for prisoner rehabilitation and washed the feet of inmates at a prison near Rome earlier this year.
While in Bologna, the pope visited a drab refugee center on the outskirts of Bologna known simply as "The Hub." Run by a charity, it is home to about 1,000 asylum seekers, most of whom risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East.
There, they live in gray containers and other forms of temporary housing while awaiting decisions on their asylum requests to be moved to other towns in Italy.
Many of the refugees and migrants are without documents and all wear a plastic yellow bracelet. The pope wore one bearing his name and the number 3900003 on his right wrist. It was given to him by an African refugee.
"Many who don't know you are afraid of you," he told them as a light drizzle fell. "That makes them think they have the right to judge (you) coldly and harshly," he said.
He paid homage to those who "never arrived because they were eaten up by the desert or the sea.”
Some 600,000 impoverished migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy in less than four years. In that time, more than 13,000 have died trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Pope Francis, who has made the defense of migrants and refugees a major plank of his papacy, also condemned internet trolling against foreigners, saying they had been subjected to "terrible phrases and insults."
"If we look on our neighbors without mercy we risk that even God will look on us without mercy," he said.
Reuters contributed to this report.