With 11 arrests and four stints in prison by age 48, Raymond Caraballo of Philadelphia has not been a man many people envy or respect. “I feel like I wasted my life,” he said. When one of the world’s most respected men – Pope Francis – visited him and 70 other inmates at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility yesterday, the significance was not lost on Caraballo, now incarcerated on a firearms charge, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s ironic; there’s probably people out there that would trade places with me in order to get a chance to shake his hand,” he said. the Pope walked into the prison’s gym to a standing ovation. “I am here as a pastor, but above all as a brother, to share your situation and make it my own,” he said.
Attending were inmates from across the prison system, their families, employees, and local officials. The prisoners were chosen not for their crimes, which ranged from murder to assault, but for their behavior in custody and good attendance in prison programs. In his speech, Francis criticized countries that are complacent to people in anguish. While not naming the U.S., with 25 percent of the world’s inmates and 5 percent of its population, his message was clear. “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 that pain,” he said. He underscored the need for hope and rehabilitation in every punishment: “It is painful when we see prison systems which are not concerned to care for wounds, to soothe pain, to offer new possibilities.”