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Pope tells Philadelphia prisoners he is a 'brother' to them

PHILADELPHIA -- Pope Francis visited a Philadelphia jail on Sunday morning and told prisoners he was coming to them as a brother to share their situation and make it is own.

Dozens of men and women from the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, wearing blue prison uniforms, filed in shortly before the Pope arrived.

The prisoners listened quietly as the Pope addressed them in Spanish encouraging them to think about their future and criticising the prison system in the U.S.

"Any society, any family, which cannot share or take seriously the pain of its children, and views that pain as something normal or to be expected, is a society "condemned" to remain a hostage to itself, prey to the very things which cause pain. I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and to make it my own," Pope Francis said.

Francis has criticised prison systems that only punish and humiliate prisoners and has denounced life prison terms and isolation as a form of torture.

"It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities," he said.

Among some 100 inmates present were suspected killers, rapists and mobsters. He greeted each of them, one by one, as well as their families and told them that their time in detention should be spent to get their lives back on track.

"This time in your life can only have one purpose: to give you a hand on the right road, to give you a hand to help you rejoin society," he said.

During a speech in Congress earlier in his U.S. tour, he called for the abolition of the death penalty. The men, dressed in blue uniforms, seemed visibly moved by the encounter: They clasped his hands from their chairs, and by the end two stood up to give him a hug. Two women gave little notes to the Pope.

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