The “unpredictable pope” has struck again! Word is that Pope Francis, known already for his unconventionality, will hold next week’s Maundy Thursday service in a prison chapel on the outskirts of Rome.
The ceremony is normally held either in St. Peter’s Basilica or in the Church of St. John in Lateran.
Francis has broken the mold dozens of times already in just under two weeks as pope. He is noted for his informal and personal approach to things, and his “street-level” attitude. His latest outing will bring him to the Casal del Marmo jail, a prison for young offenders, on the outskirts of Rome.
For the Maundy Thursday ceremony, Francis is expected to wash and kiss the feet of 12 inmates, a gesture that reflects Jesus of Nazareth’s humility toward his disciples before the Last Supper and his crucifixion. Though his decision to hold the ceremony at the prison surprised Vatican officials, it’s not that out of character for a man who used to wash the feet of AIDS sufferers and met with prostitutes as the archbishop of Buenos Aires.
Francis also often held Masses in the homes of seniors, in jails, and in hospitals. He also notably traveled to work by bus, and prefers to live in a small humble apartment rather than a grand pope-y residence.
The new pope will also meet with his predecessor, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, for the first time on Saturday.
Benedict is still a pretty interesting case, as well. He’s the first pope to retire the office in 500 years. Celestine V was the last, and was reportedly appalled at his own election in 1294. He resigned after just five months, and was locked up by his successor, Pope Boniface VIII.
Of course, that’s not going to happen to Benedict. He’ll be moving into a former convent inside the Vatican in a few days time. Interestingly, the Vatican has said that Benedict should still be addressed as “Your Holiness,” even thought he isn’t the pope anymore. He will also retain his title, Benedict XVI, instead of his birth name, Joseph Ratzinger.
Are you a fan of Pope Francis?