Pope Francis has washed the feet of 12 prisoners in an ancient ritual. It was one of several rituals for the newly appointed pope leading up to Easter Sunday in Rome.
Francis washed the prisoners’ feet in the Casal del Marmo youth prison on the outskirts of Rome Thursday instead of the basilica in the city center, where popes usually celebrate the mass commemorating Jesus Christ's gesture of humility to his 12 disciples. Local prison official Angiolo Marroni said that one of the two girls taking part in the ceremony was Muslim.
"Whoever is the most high up must be at the service of others," the pope said at the start of the Holy Thursday ceremony - the first performed by a pontiff in prison and the first including women.
Holy Thursday, often called Maundy Thursday among other names, commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ as portrayed in the New Testament, prior to crucifixion. During this meal, famously painted by Leonardo da Vinci, Jesus is said to have washed his disciples' feet.
Washing the prisoners’ feet has been labeled another example of the pope's desire to change the image of the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church; previous pontiffs have marked the Holy Thursday ceremonies by cleansing priests' feet in ornate surroundings.
Francis also led an early-morning Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
mkg/dr (AFP, AP)