Last year, Pope Francis made headlines by washing the feet of young prisoners to celebrate the Easter season. Pope Francis has attracted attention again this year by washing the feet of disabled people. Although the washing of feet was a widely practiced activity in the era of Jesus Christ, it has more recently been held as a privilege only given to priests.
Even extending the tradition to priests was something only done rarely. Before Pope Francis took his position, only 12 religious leaders were given the honor. So, not only is the current leader of the Catholic Church breaking boundaries by performing the practice on a greater number of people, but also demonstrating his belief there’s no need to restrict the ceremonial activity to just a few.
Some of the people who were part of last year’s foot cleansing ceremony performed by the pope were women who did not subscribe to the Christian faith. Even before being confirmed for his current position, the pope raised the eyebrows of some and gained admiration from others when he performed similar ceremonies for AIDS patients and drug addicts.
During a special Last Supper mass this year, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 residents from the Fondazione Don Carlo Gnocchi, a home for people who are elderly or disabled. Since the participants represented a wide age range, and also were of different ethnicities and religious backgrounds, the pope seemed to be demonstrating the love of Jesus by example. In the Bible, there are many instances of Jesus spending time with people of all sorts, even those that were shunned by other religious leaders of the day.
Pope Francis is now 78 years old, so it’s very impressive he was able to kneel to perform the ceremonial gesture. An article from CNN noted how he seemed to get tired near the end of the short event, but the pope did have assistants nearby to help when needed.
Part of the ceremony included a brief sermon where the pope urged “In our hearts at this moment, let each one of us think of the other… and how we can each help each other.” That encouragement was true to form for the religious leader, who has been praised for his humility and willingness to interact with the people he serves.
The foot washing was only one celebration within what will be a busy few days for Pope Francis. Throughout today and Holy Saturday, he’ll preside over three masses, and then finally deliver a message on Easter Sunday.
[Photo Credit: Raw Story/AFP]