Meeting with inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, Pope Francis said that he came to visit them not only as a pastor but as a brother.
Immediately following his meeting with Bishops attending the World Meeting of Families at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, the Pope boarded a Marine helicopter to the prison.
Thanking them for the warm welcome, the Pope said he came to share with them their sufferings and struggles on the difficult path towards rehabilitation.
“I have come so that we can pray together and offer our God everything that causes us pain, but also everything that gives us hope, so that we can receive from him the power of the resurrection,” he said.
The Pope reminded the inmates of the Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, which were covered in dust bruises or cuts from stones.
“That is why we see Jesus washing feet, our feet, the feet of his disciples, then and now,” he said. “Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us.”
“He doesn’t ask us where we have been, he doesn’t question us about what we have done. Rather, he tells us: “Unless I wash your feet, you have no share with me”. Unless I wash your feet, I will not be able to give you the life which the Father always dreamed of, the life for which he created you.”
The Jesuit Pope said that life “means getting our feet dirty” and encouraged the inmates to allow Christ to cleanse them.
“All of us need to be cleansed, to be washed. All of us, and me in first place. All of us are being sought out by the Teacher, who wants to help us resume our journey.”
He also expressed his sorrow at seeing some prison systems that don’t tend to the wounds of those imprisoned. The theme of proper rehabilitation, especially those who have committed serious crimes, is a theme that has been by Pope Francis during his visit to the U.S.
In his speech to Congress earlier this week, the Pope called for an end to the death penalty and encouraged those who believe that “a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation.”
Reiterating his statements, the Pope told the inmates that their time of incarceration serves the purpose of “coming back to the table.”
“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,” he said.
“This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand in getting back on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society. 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 and society.”
Following his address, the Pope then greeted each inmate individually, going to each one present in the room. Visibly moved, several inmates even asked him for a hug, to which the Pontiff readily obliged.
Before departing, Pope Francis thanked the inmates for the chair which they built for him. “The chair is beautiful. Thank you very much for the hard work!” he said.
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On ZENIT’s website:
For the full text of the Pope’s address, go to: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-inmates-of-curran-fromhold-correctional-facility