Prison workshop crafting chair for Pope Francis

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Some Philadelphia prisoners are crafting a unique gift for Pope Francis. 

Alexander Davis is part of a prison team building a custom American walnut chair for the pope. 

“It gives you joy to know that you are making something for someone so big that is coming to the city and that everybody is going to get a chance to see and the craft that we actually learn in here, people are actually going to see that we actually had a hand in making the pope’s chair,” Davis said.

He hopes he can put the skill to work after he’s released.

It’s not just Catholic inmates working on the gift. 

“Even though I’m Muslim and he’s Catholic I feel as though there’s one God out there,” said prisoner Hakim Burke. “It’s not that big of a deal to me. Me saying I did that is giving me a nice feeling inside. I feel proud of myself.”

The pope will sit in the chair when he visits the Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility in September.  It will then be shipped to Rome as a perpetual reminder of the visit to Philadelphia.

The prisoners sanding and staining the chair don’t know yet whether they will be the ones who get to meet the pontiff. At the six jails in this corner of Northeast Philadelphia, there are more than 8,000 prisoners.  Only about 100 will get to see Pope Francis in person.

Philadelphia Industrial Correction Center Warden Karen Bryant said prison leaders are working to figure out who will get to see the pope in person.

“It is unfortunate and right now we are trying to allow as many people as we can to visit the pope and we are trying to do it fairly,” she said.

Bryant says prisoners of all faiths will be included, but at the pope’s request, the families of five selected Catholic inmates will be invited to meet the pontiff.

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