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PHILADELPHIA — Pope Francis delivered a message to inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia on Sunday morning.
Speaking of the Gospel where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, Pope Francis told of how it was customary in those times to do such an act when someone visited their home.
“Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us,” he said to the inmates. “Life means getting our feet dirty from the dust-filled roads of life and history. All of us need to be cleansed — to be washed. All of us are being sought out by the teacher, who wants to help us resume our journey … He wants us to keep walking along the paths of life, to realize that we have a mission and that confinement is not the same thing as exclusion.”
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The pontiff is known for his push for prison reform.
In 2014, Pope Francis called on all men and women to fight to abolish the death penalty and improve prison conditions while addressing members of the International Association of Criminal Law.
“Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected,” he said, “is a society condemned to remain a hostage to itself (and) prey to the very things which cause that pain.
“It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities,” Pope Francis continued. “It is painful when we see people who think that only others need to be cleansed, purified and do not recognize that their weariness, pain and wounds are also the weariness, pain and wounds of society.
“The Lord tells us this clearly with a sign. He washes our feet so we can come back to the table — the table from which he wishes no one to be excluded, the table which is spread for all and to which all of us are invited.”
The Holy Father also talked to the prisoners, which included men and women, about hope and making good use of their time while incarcerated.
“This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road (and) to give you a hand to help you rejoin society,” Pope Francis said. “All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation — a rehabilitation which everyone seeks and desires, inmates and their families, correctional authorities, social and educational programs. A rehabilitation which benefits and elevates the morale of the entire community.”
Also in attendance at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility were Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, local legislators and members of Philadelphia City Council.
Prison workers and instructors made the chair upon which the pope sat.
“The chair is beautiful,” he said. “Thank you very much for the hard work.”
After the speech, the pontiff shook hands with every prisoner in attendance, blessed their rosaries, and talked to them about creating new opportunities.
“I encourage you to have this attitude with one another and with all those who, in any way, are part of this institution,” Pope Francis said. “May you make possible new opportunities, new journeys and new paths … All of us have something we need to be cleansed of or purified from. May the knowledge of that fact inspire us to live in solidarity and to support one another and seek the best for others.”