Scullion: Prayers will warm the homeless

Sister Mary Scullion presents Pope Francis a stole knit with the prayer knots from prisoners, homeless and mentally ill as he visited the Knotted Grotto outside St. Peter's Basilica on Sept. 27,2015. ( Mari A. Schaefer / Staff )

The ribbons inscribed with prayer intentions that were tied to the Knotted Grotto outside the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul will have a new use.

Sister Mary Scullion, president of Project HOME, announced Wednesday that the fabric strips will be used as insulation for a new Project HOME property at 2415 N. Broad St. that will provide housing for the homeless. A section of wall in which the ribbons will be placed will be made of glass so the prayer intentions are visible.

Scullion, who served as cochair of the World Meeting of Families Hunger and Homelessness Committee, also announced that the Francis Fund, formed to help alleviate poverty in Philadelphia and Camden, raised more than $1.4 million. The money will go to a number of organizations, including the Salvation Army, St. Francis Inn Ministries, and KleinLife, a Jewish community organization.

The Knotted Grotto, which was based on a German painting called Mary, Undoer of Knots, a favorite of Pope Francis', received its final blessing Wednesday morning by religious leaders representing the Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. In the time leading up to Francis' visit to Philadelphia, people tied almost 150,000 ribbons to the structure as well as to the gate around the basilica.

Francis made an unplanned stop and blessed the installation on his way to celebrate Mass on the Parkway.

The structure of the grotto, which was designed by artist Meg Saligman, will be relocated to the courtyard of the Francis House of Peace, an affordable-housing development at 810 Arch St. also run by Project HOME.

The Rev. Dennis Gill, the basilica's pastor, called the grotto a "special blessing." He was surprised by the attention it received.

"I had no idea what would come about because of it," he said.

The grotto was an integral part of the World Meeting of Families, executive director Donna Crilley Farrell said.

"It was incredibly significant," she said. "It became a landmark."

Imam Salaam Muhsin of the West Oak Lane mosque Masjidullah, who was at the ceremony, expressed his support for the grotto project, as well as for Pope Francis and Scullion.

"When I see Pope Francis, I see another brother," Muhsin said. "When I see Sister Mary, I see another sister."

Scullion hopes the legacy of the grotto continues to inspire faith and prayer. Though the physical aspect of the grotto will disappear, she hopes people will continue "the work of praying to loosen our knots and to help others to unloose their knots."

JTomczuk@phillynews.com

@JackTomczuk