Pope Tells Inmates To Prepare To Put Their Life On The Right Road

Sep 28, 2015
Originally published on September 28, 2015 12:23 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

On the last day of his U.S. visit, Pope Francis met privately with five victims of sexual abuse, and then he spoke about that meeting with hundreds of bishops and seminarians. Speaking using an interpreter, the pope said the stories of suffering are engraved in his heart. He said it remains on his mind that people who had responsibility for young people...

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POPE FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) Violated that trust and caused them great pain. God weeps.

GREENE: The pope said all who are responsible will be held accountable. Critics say those words have to be backed up by actions. On Sunday, the pope also met with inmates at a local prison, and NPR's Jeff Brady was there.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: The pope essentially told the 100 or so inmates gather to get their lives back together. But he said it with compassion and in a way the inmates seemed to understand and appreciate.

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FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

BRADY: Speaking in Spanish, Francis 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. The pope also had a message for those who judge inmates harshly.

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FRANCIS: (Speaking Spanish).

BRADY: Speaking of Jesus as an example, the pope said, he comes to save us from the lie that says no one can change. The pope and the inmates exchanged gifts. They gave him a solid walnut chair they made. In the prison gym after the pope finished speaking, inmate Ruth Colon was wearing the gift she got from Francis.

RUTH COLON: It came in this little pouch - the rosary - and he blessed it. So I'm never taking it off (laughter).

BRADY: Colon says she's not Catholic, but she appreciates Francis's message and how he delivers it.

COLON: It feels good that a man that, you know, that actually cares, you know? And he's so down to earth. He makes us feel like we're not the scum of the earth. You know, we made mistakes and that, you know, we can get past our mistakes.

BRADY: This prison, the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, was named for a warden and deputy warden who were murdered while on duty in 1973. The warden's son, Chris Curran, says the pope choosing to come here is meaningful.

CHRIS CURRAN: He could go anywhere in this country. And he decided to come to a correctional facility. That speaks a lot about the pope himself.

BRADY: What does it say?

CURRAN: It says that he's a man of the people, a man of the faith and a man of the Lord.

BRADY: After the prison, Pope Francis celebrated mass in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Then later in the evening, he boarded a plane for the flight back to Rome. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Philadelphia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.