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August 24, 2015

Inmates, guards carve chair as gift for Pope Francis

Pope to stop at Philadelphia prison during visit

Papal Visit Prisons
Pope Francis chair Archdiocese of Philadelphia/Contributed Art

The Seal of Pope Francis is sanded by an inmate at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center prior to being installed on the chair.

When Pope Francis visits Philadelphia later this month, many will flock to see him when he stops by Independence Mall or during his mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. 

One less glamorous stop on his journey will have a much different crowd than the millions expected to flood to the city that weekend. 

Before his Sunday mass, Francis will visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia. As a token of appreciation, the guards, staff, and inmates are carving the pope a gift. 

Construction of the gift, a wooden chair carved out of a chunk of Black Walnut, has taken place over the past month and is expected to go through refinishing work this coming week. 

"We are delighted and grateful that our partners at the Philadelphia Prison System have taken it upon themselves to devote their time and energy into crafting this beautiful chair that will certainly be a welcome present for Pope Francis as he meets with inmates and their families,” said Donna Crilley Farrell, Executive Director of the World Meeting of Families, in a press release.

Pope Francis chair
The final stain is applied by inmates at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center. (Contributed Art/Archdiocese of Philadelphia)

The chair was developed through PhilaCor, a program that has ten industry shops throughout Philadelphia prisons and attempts to train inmates with real work experience to ready them for life post-release.

Selection for the program is based on behavior and work ethic. PhilaCor's carpentry shop employs an average of 18 inmates daily and, in addition to Francis' gift, makes 70 pieces of furniture each month. 

Pope Francis chair

Inmates at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (PICC) apply the final stain to the chair’s crosses. (Contributed Art/Archdiocese of Philadelphia)

Pope Francis will visit the prison on Sunday, Sept. 27, at 11 a.m. before giving mass in front of the Art Museum at 4 p.m. Present at his appearance will be the families of many inmates, who are welcome for the event.

"Families are often the ‘collateral damage’ of incarceration and [Pope Francis'] request to include these families shows his deep understanding of this dynamic," said Louis Giorla, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison System, in the release. "I know it will mean so much to so many.”  

For more information on the papal visit, check out more coverage from PhillyVoice here