Pope Francis said from the beginning that he came to the U.S. as a pastor. On Sunday morning, 27 September, he also came as a brother to share in the condition of those who are imprisoned and to make their condition his own. It was with this spirit that he entered the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, a prison that houses around 2,800 inmates. In a fraternal way, he spoke to 68 prisoners, 11 of whom were women, and some of whom were serving sentences for serious crimes such as murder.
He greeted each prisoner individually, with a handshake, a look, a word of comfort, and a lot of emotion. Before beginning his address, he expressed his admiration for the gift that they gave him: the wooden chair that he sat upon, which had been built by a dozen inmates who work in the carpentry workshop. Carpentry is one of the trades which the inmates learn while in prison.
The meeting with the Pope took place in the gymnasium, where prisoners and some of their family members had gathered. The event was also broadcast live in other areas of the prison, to allow all prisoners to participate in the visit.
The visit with the prisoners was not Pope Francis’ only significant meeting on his last morning in the United States. Before welcoming the bishops who had participated in the World Meeting of Families, Pope Francis received five guests at the Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary: three women and two men who were victims of sexual abuse as minors. Acts perpetrated by members of the clergy, their families or their teachers.
Pope Francis spoke with them for about half an hour, listening to their testimonies, offering words of encouragement to them, and then greeting them individually and inviting them to pray together. The Pope, who thanked the victims for their contribution to restoring the truth, expressed his sharing in their suffering, through his pain and shame for their wounds that were caused by clergy and church employees. He renewed his commitment, and that of the Church, to ensure that all victims be heard and treated with justice, that all culprits be punished, and that abusive crimes be combated by effective prevention in the Church and in society.
St. Peter’s Square
Feb. 20, 2019
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