Pope Francis: 'Face to face' with Philadelphia inmates and their families
The big news already broke: Pope Francis will be visiting the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) during his visit for the World Meeting of Families in September.
Now on to the details.
Louis Giorla, commissioner of Philadelphia’s prison system, joined by several trustees from the prison board, shared their excitement over the announced visit outside of CFCF on Tuesday afternoon.
Unfortunately, Giorla said he is still hashing out the specifics.
Preparations have been in progress for some time throughout the city, but it wasn’t until recently that Giorla and company caught wind of the Pope’s interest in touring a prison facility.
Everyone has been asking — “What do you hope the Pope will take away from his visit?” But Giorla wants to flip the question around: What will the Pope bring to CFCF?
“I hope there’s a message of hope and encouragement for the individuals incarcerated here, and message of support for our staff,” Giorla said.
Of course, the Pope won’t be able to deliver a personal message to all 8,000 people incarcerated in CFCF. The facility’s biggest gathering space is its gymnasium, which can house “a few hundred people maybe.” After accounting in the Pope’s Vatican contingent, security forces, CFCF prison officials, and an international press pool, space will be limited.
But Giorla nonetheless said this will be a “face to face” meeting. The Vatican made two open-ended requests: to meet with both male and female inmates, and to meet with some families of the inmates.
Said inmates and families will be chosen to participate in the Pope’s visit based on a number of criteria. Will faith play a role? CFCF houses inmates of many different religions. About 1,200 inmates in custody currently identify as Catholic, but Giorla said he hopes to present a representative group of men and women.
Good behavior will be taken into consideration, too.
But the decision will also come down to the timing. CFCF has a large transitional population. Many of their current inmates will not be present come September 27.
Naturally, security measures are pretty thorough at CFCF, but prison officials will coordinate the special visitation procedures in coming months.”
“As usual, we like to know and identify everybody who comes through the door. We’ll let anybody in, but we won’t necessarily let everybody out,” Giorla joked.