Pope to prisoners: I stand before you a brother

It was a meeting of preachers and prisoners, of tattoos and crosses, of caregivers and criminals. Pope Francis visited with 95 inmates at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on Sunday, bringing with him a message of redemption, hope and encouragement.

“I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own,” he said, peering over his glasses at the men and women – all inmates – seated before him.

“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.”

The pope’s message was built around the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. In Christian practice, washing the feet of another is an act of humility and compassion. He told them it is not possible to walk the roads of life without getting one’s feet dirty.

“All of us have something we need to be cleansed of, or purified from,” he told them. Then going off-script, he added, “I am first among them.”

The prisoners seemed visibly moved. Some bowed their head, one or two had eyes that welled.

Before stepping down to shake the hands of many, one by one, he gave them a last message of hope:

They can be saved from “the lie that says no one can change.”