Pope washes feet of ex-mafia members ahead of Easter | News | DW | 13.04.2017
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Pope washes feet of ex-mafia members ahead of Easter

The Argentine pontiff has started a series of ceremonies leading up to Easter by washing the feet of inmates at an Italian prison. He called for peace across the globe, saying "violence is no cure for our broken world."

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Pope Francis washes inmates 'feet in Easter ritual'

Pope Francis on Thursday washed the feet of a dozen inmates held at a maximum security prison dedicated to Mafia turncoats.

The pre-Easter ritual marks the third Holy Thursday that the pontiff has spent at a detention center, which he stressed is a Christian virtue to serve marginalized communities.

"It is good for us to break out of our set ways, because it is proper to the heart of God to overflow with tenderness, with ever more to give," the pope said in a tweet before arriving at Paliano prison, roughly 75 kilometers (46.6 miles) southeast of Rome.

The Vatican said that three of the inmates partaking in the ceremony were women and one was a Muslim due to be baptized as a Christian in June.

Christians traditionally believe the ceremony recalls the gesture Jesus performed on the 12 apostles before the Last Supper, considered a most humble act for a leader.

The prison hosts up to 70 inmates, 50 of which are former members of the mafia who cooperate with Italian prosecutors for reduced sentences.

'Violence is no cure'

In an interview with Italian daily "La Repubblica" published on Thursday, the Argentine pope issued a fresh call for world peace ahead of Christianity's most important holiday.

"All I want is to call even more strongly for peace for this world subjugated by arms traffickers who profit from the blood of men and women," Francis told the newspaper. "Violence is no cure for our broken world."

The pontiff has often remarked on international affairs, especially those affecting inter-religious dialogue, disenfranchised communities and Christians across the globe.

Last week, Francis offered his condolences to the Coptic Christian community targeted by bomb attacks in Egypt. He asked God "to convert the heart of those who spread terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make and traffic in weapons."

The pope is expected to participate in the torch-lit procession at Rome's Colosseum re-enacting Christ's crucifixion as well ass lead a late-night Easter vigil on Saturday and Easter Sunday Mass.

ls/kms (dpa, AP)

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