DENVER — Clergy and members of the public and congregations from across the state honored the visit of Pope Francis to the United States on Saturday by recognizing people at the edges of society, listening to their stories and washing their feet in front of a Denver immigration and detention center.
The ceremony was held at the GEO Immigration Detention Center, highlighting the pope's planned visit Sunday to the largest jail in Philadelphia, the Curran-Fromhold jail, calling attention to people who need help.
Francis is scheduled to meet with about 100 inmates and some of their families, fulfilling a goal of his trip to visit with people incarcerated in the U.S.
The Rev. Anne Rice-Jones, spokeswoman for a coalition of people working for human rights who organized Saturday's meeting that drew dozens of people, said many people in need are in jail, caught up in a cycle of distrust and isolation.
The ceremony also included immigrants, low-wage workers and people who said they were victims of racism.
Rice-Jones, a Methodist, said Pope Francis has been a model for people of many faiths, discussing his concerns about those living on the edge of society with political leaders and asking them to bring reform to issues like immigration, homelessness and poverty. Rice-Jones has also been involved in Colorado politics, fighting for human rights causes.
"You have to work within the system. You can't just pray everything away," she said.
Luis Cantar, a Catholic from Aurora who said his parents are living in the U.S. illegally, hopes politicians respond to the pope's message.
"Politicians have the last word. They control the laws. This is an area where they can be more humane," Cantar said.
Jan Meese, a Presbyterian from Franktown, told the gathering that she had a spouse in prison and it has affected her whole family.
"Once a member of your family has been arrested, they treat the whole family like they did something wrong," she said.
Organizer Sharon Bridgeforth said putting people in jail for issues like immigration affect everyone.
"People who do get out of the justice system can't get housing, can't get food stamps and can't get loans to go to school to better themselves. They spend the rest of their lives being a prisoner," she said.