Pope Francis washes the feet of a dozen prisoners in a Rome prison

Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen inmates in a prison near Rome in a Holy Thursday ritual that symbolizes humility and service and highlights the attention of his papacy to those on the fringes of society.

He arrived in a convoy of Italian police cars at the prison in Civitavecchia, a port city 80 miles northwest of Rome. The ritual was closed to the public for security reasons and to protect the privacy of the inmates.

But afterwards the Vatican said that the pope performed the foot-washing, following the example of Jesus, ‘in a sign of love inspired by love’ for the sake of service and humility.

Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen prisoners in a prison near Rome in a Holy Thursday ritual. In the photo: Pope Francis performs “Food Laundering” of inmates during a private visit to the Civitavecchia Prison northwest of Rome

The 12 inmates included men and women of different ages and of different nationalities, it said. As a symbol of the number of Jesus’ apostles, the twelve sat on chairs on a raised platform.

The Pope washed, dried and then kissed the feet of each of the inmates, all of whom were wearing masks against the spread of COVID-19. Some inmates leaned over to kiss the pope’s hands in gratitude.

In the prison chapel, the pope celebrated a mass attended by inmates, some prison staff and Italy’s justice minister, the Vatican said in a statement.

The Vatican did not say what adjustments could have been made to enable the pope, who has recently been hampered by a knee-ligament problem, to perform the foot-washing ceremony.

For years, Francis also has suffered from sciatica, a neuritis that can cause back and leg pain.

Earlier, during a Holy Thursday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, Francis advised the 1,800 priests in attendance not to focus on worldly concerns such as power or status, but to exhort them to serve, with a clear conscience, the holy and faithful. God’s people. ‘

Pope Francis washes the feet of inmates at the Civitavecchia Prison in Civitavecchia, April 14

Pope Francis washes the feet of inmates at the Civitavecchia Prison in Civitavecchia, April 14

Francis did not refer to decades of scandals involving Catholic priests who sexually abused children and were often transferred from parish to parish by bishops trying to avoid embarrassment instead of protecting minors.

During Holy Thursday Mass, large urns are blessed with oil for use at ceremonies in churches in the Rome area.

As Francis went to bless the oil by breathing in it, a helper helped him get up from the chair and walk towards the silver urn.

At the end of the ceremony, Francis walked down the stairs from the altar, clinging to an aide’s arm, and even as he was assisted, he limped his way out of the basilica.

The holy week, which draws hundreds of thousands of believers to the Vatican, began with Palm Sunday Mass on April 10 in St. Peter’s Square and culminates this Sunday in Easter, with believers marking the resurrection of Jesus.

This year, Good Friday’s torchlight procession Korsvej in Rome returns to its traditional place at the old Colosseum after a two-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 12 inmates involved in the ceremony included men and women of different ages and of different nationalities.  In the photo: The Pope greets people in Rome's prison on Thursday

The 12 inmates involved in the ceremony included men and women of different ages and of different nationalities. In the photo: The Pope greets people in Rome’s prison on Thursday

The holy week, which draws hundreds of thousands of believers to the Vatican, began with Palm Sunday Mass on April 10 in St. Peter's Square and culminates this Sunday in Easter, with believers marking the resurrection of Jesus.  Pictured: Some of the 1,800 pastors attending Pope Francis' Mass at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, April 14

The holy week, which draws hundreds of thousands of believers to the Vatican, began with Palm Sunday Mass on April 10 in St. Peter’s Square and culminates this Sunday in Easter, with believers marking the resurrection of Jesus. Pictured: Some of the 1,800 pastors attending Pope Francis’ Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, April 14

The Vatican has invited a Russian woman and a Ukrainian woman working together at a hospital in Rome to carry a cross together during the procession.

It has angered some Ukrainians, including the country’s ambassador to the Holy See and the Archbishop of Kiev.

Their objections revolve around whether such a gesture involving reconciliation is appropriate given Russia’s invasion of its neighbor and its ongoing war against the people of the country.

The Vatican is still in the process of the procession’s series of participants, who take turns carrying a lightweight cross during the procession, which is presided over by the pope and commemorates the death of Jesus at crucifixion.

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