News Column

Pope Francis to Wash Inmates' Feet in Pre-Easter Mass

March 28, 2013

Pope Francis will on Thursday perform the traditional pre-Easter foot-washing ceremony in a juvenile prison instead of a more traditional church setting.

The Vatican has said that the new pontiff, who has called for "a poor Church, for the poor," wanted to continue the habit of celebrating Holy Thursday mass in old people's homes or in prisons as he did in his previous role as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Francis will wash the feet of twelve inmates of different religions and nationalities at Casal de Marmo - an institute that his two predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have already visited in the past.

The washing of the feet recalls the gesture performed by Jesus on the twelve apostles before the Last Supper.

Following the service, gifts will be exchanged, the Vatican said. The inmates have made a wooden crucifix and a kneeler to give to the pope, while the pope will hand out to them Easter eggs and Colomba, a traditional Italian cake.

Journalists will not be allowed in and no live coverage will be provided "given the intimate nature" of the papal visit, the Vatican indicated.

On Thursday morning, the pontiff began the Easter rites by performing Holy Chrism Mass in the Basilica of St Peter's in Rome, during which he blessed holy oils used in the sacraments.

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and is considered the most important Christian holiday.

On Friday, Francis is scheduled to preside over the traditional Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession in Rome's Colosseum and he will lead an Easter vigil at the Vatican on Saturday.

On Easter Sunday, he will celebrate mass in Saint Peter's before delivering his Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) message and blessing.

Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH