Pope Francis washed the feet of young prisoners in a detention center near Rome Thursday as part of a service kicking off four days of Easter ceremonies.
The Catholic ritual takes place on Maudy Thursday the week before Easter to celebrate Christ’s Last Supper. The tradition stems from the belief that Christ washed the feet of his apostles before their final meal together. The ceremonies serves as a gesture of Christ’s humility the night before his crucifixion.
Pope Francis decided to hold this year’s ceremony in the Casal del Marmo prison in northwest Rome. The Pope washed and kissed the feet of 12 young prisoners ranging from 16 to 21 years old.
Of the dozen youth, two were girls. Some traditionalists do not approve as Christ’s disciples were all male.
Prison chaplain Father Gaetano Greco told the Catholic News Agency that some of the children volunteered to have their feet washed, while others were invited to help them overcome their self-consciousness.
“But all of them are very happy, and the visit will make them think, reconsider and understand that there are people in this world who are concerned for them,” Greco said.
Unsurprisingly, many of the children come from broken families. Some have resorted to drugs and crimes as a means of escape.
There are over 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. Thousands have arrived in Rome to attend ceremonies through the week of Easter.
“Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help,” Pope Francis told a crowd gathered on St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope is scheduled to hold the Lord’s Supper mass at the same prison later in the day. 35 male and 11 female young prisoners aged from 14 to 21 will be in attendance. The Pope will not wash any feet at that time.
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