Pope washes convicts' feet

April 15, 2017
Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a maximum security prison on Holy Thursday in a pre-Easter ritual meant to show his willingness to serve society's most marginal and give them hope. Francis urged the prisoners to help one another out and similarly "be the servant of others." (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)

VATICAN CITY (AP):

Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates at a maximum-security prison on Holy Thursday in a pre-Easter ritual meant to show his willingness to serve society's most marginal and give them hope. Francis urged the prisoners to help one another out and similarly "be the servant of others."

Francis travelled to the Paliano detention centre, located in a fortress south of Rome, to celebrate the Holy Thursday Mass at the only Italian prison dedicated to housing mafia turncoats.

Many of the inmates are serving lengthy terms: Two of the 12 inmates who participated in the foot-washing ceremony are serving life terms. The remaining 10 are due to be released between 2019 and 2073. Francis also visited two other inmates currently in solitary confinement.

In his homily, Francis reminded the inmates that his gesture of washing their feet re-enacted the revolutionary gesture of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples before he was crucified, essentially doing the work of a slave out of love.

"If you can do something, a service for your companions in prison, do it," Francis urged them during his homily. "This is love. This is like washing feet: to be the servant of others."

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