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In Philadelphia, pope visits with prison inmates

Pope Francis speaks to international bishops at Saint

Pope Francis speaks to international bishops at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, in Wynnewood, Pa. Credit: Getty Images / Drew Angerer

PHILADELPHIA -- Pope Francis told prison inmates here Sunday he wanted to speak to them not just as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, but also as an equal.

"I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own," he told prisoners at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility Sunday morning during one of the final stops on his six-day U.S. visit. "I have come so that we can pray together . . ."

The pope arrived at the facility by helicopter from a Philadelphia-area seminary where he first met in private with survivors of sex abuse and then talked with bishops separately about the scandal and extolled the virtues of family life.

During the prison meeting, Francis spoke frankly to the male and female inmates in blue uniforms about their difficult times behind bars.

He repeatedly discussed the biblical story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet after they walked on dusty roads loaded with hard pebbles and stones that would cut their sandal-clad feet.

The story served as a metaphor to discuss the inmates' lives and how they ended up incarcerated. "Life is a journey, along different roads, different paths, which leave their mark on us," the pope said.

Jesus "wants to dress our wounds. . . . He doesn't ask where we have been, he doesn't question us about what we have done," the pope said in Spanish through a translator.

The pope told the prisoners "all of us need to be cleansed."

Earlier, Francis met with 300 bishops at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

The majestic property, whose large beige edifice is topped by an old green steeple, was also a stop for popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Francis greeted some of the 146 seminarians on his way inside and then spoke to the group in Spanish under the arched dome of the richly decorated chapel.

He spoke of his meeting with abuse victims, the virtues of family life as the center of society and the reluctance of many young people to get married.

He instructed the bishops to help fortify that institution in their pastoral work, going beyond their duties of preaching and praying.

The church's shepherds should "accompany and help" young people "mature toward the commitment of marriage," Pope Francis said.

Instead of marriage, young people are being wooed by a culture of consumerism, loneliness and confusion, he said, escaping into the virtual world of social media at the expense of commitment and trust.

The address to his surrogates built on his speech to attendants at the Festival of Families the night before.

The pope also said the "alliance of the church and the family," must be part of the bishops' ministry in order to grow the Catholic faith.

"To the contrary, it will just wilt," he said.

With Candice Ruud

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