POPE breaks with tradition by washing feet of only women as he celebrates Holy Thursday Mass

Friday, March 29, 2024
 – Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of 12 women inmates at a Rome prison during a Holy Thursday Mass.

The 87-year-old pontiff performed the ritual from his wheelchair after recent ailments compounded his mobility problems.

The women at the Rebibbia prison venue sat on stools on a raised-up platform, enabling the pope to move down the line with ease from his wheelchair without having to strain himself.

Many of the women wept as Francis washed their feet, gently pouring water over one bared foot and patting it dry with a small towel. He finished the gesture by kissing each foot, often looking up to the woman with a smile.

The Holy Thursday foot-washing ceremony is a hallmark of every Holy Week and recalls the foot-washing Jesus performed on his 12 apostles at their last supper together before he was crucified.

Previously, popes performed the ritual on Catholic men only at a Rome basilica. However, Pope Francis revolutionized the ritual for the Vatican by insisting, from his very first Holy Thursday as pope in 2013, to include women and people of other faiths among the 12.

Since his election, the pope has taken this ceremony out of Vatican territory and celebrated by washing the feet of prisoners, refugees and the disabled.

Over the years, Francis has washed the feet of women and Muslims. However, Michael Walsh, a prominent church historian and author, and Fr Anthony Ruff, a liturgical expert, both told CNN they believe this is the first time a pope has washed the feet of women exclusively during the ceremony.

Nadia Fontana, the director of the female prison in Rome where the event took place, said it was the first time a pope had entered their facility, which she said held 360 prisoners and one child.

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