VELLETRI, ITALY – Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 prisoners at a Holy Thursday service and urged them to serve one another as brothers.
The Mass opens the most solemn period in the Liturgical Calendar, leading up to the commemoration of Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday and Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
The Pope traveled to a prison in Velletri, outside Rome, for the service reenacting the Biblical story of Christ washing the feet of his Disciples.
Francis has frequently performed the Holy Thursday ceremony at prisons to reinforce his message that even the most important figures must serve the most marginal, as Jesus did.
Francis urged the prisoners to not try to dominate one another, and to make the fights that break out between them a “fleeting thing” before he washed, dried and kissed the feet of the inmates, nine Italians and one each from Brazil, Ivory Coast, and Morocco.
The solemn pre-Easter rituals were more poignant this year after the devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
Earlier Thursday Francis celebrated the Chrism Mass to bless the holy oils that will be used during the year. On Friday he presides over the Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s Colosseum reenacting Christ’s crucifixion. followed by the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica and Easter Sunday in a flower-decked St. Peter’s Square.