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Catholics say pope’s visit shows he “exudes love”


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By Tracy Simmons

Pope Francis started his last day in Philadelphia by meeting privately with five sexual abuse victims.

Speaking with the three female and two male victims and their families, he expressed his sorrow for their pain and said they deserve the church’s protection and care. He added that sexual crimes against children can no longer be hidden and told them their stories of survival are signs of hope. He asked them to stay with the church.

From there Pope Francis traveled to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility where he met with inmates.

Before shaking hands and hugging several of the prisoners, 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. All of us are part of that effort, all of us are invited to encourage, help and enable your rehabilitation.”

Pope Francis will conclude his visit with a homily on this stage/Tracy Simmons - SpokaneFāVS
Pope Francis will conclude his visit with a homily on this stage/Tracy Simmons – SpokaneFāVS

Ron Montoya, who traveled from Denver to see Pope Francis, said the pontiff’s interaction with prisoners is an example of the love that he exudes.

“For the pope to go take time to visit the prisoners, I thought that was terrific,” he said. “Everyone needs help. Seeing him could change their lives.”

Montoya traveled as part of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders and had tickets to all papal events. He said the pope’s message throughout the trip has been consistent and clear — the church should be more inclusive of all people, regardless of religion and race.

“The pope preaches of love to everyone,” he said.

Montoya and his wife, Naomi, also heard Pastor Rick Warren speak. Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, spoke about Christians coming together.

“What we need is to revitalize our worship,” he said. “We need to minimize our differences, we need to mobilize our members, we need to evangelize the lost and we need to reenergize our families.”

Ron Montoya said the fact that Warren gave the closing remarks at the World Meeting of Families shows that the Catholic Church is opening its arms to all.

Pope Francis will conclude his visit with a papal Mass in downtown Philadelphia. He’ll then depart for Rome. Vice President Joe Biden will lead the American Delegation attending the formal Departure Ceremony.

Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.


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