Pope Francis this evening celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with detainees.
The Holy Thursday Mass was celebrated at Paliano Prison (in the Province of Frosinone, Diocese of Palestrina), outside of Rome.
The visit was of a strictly private nature.
The prison has seen between its walls some notorious criminals, particularly of the mafias and of Italian terrorism. It is a particular institute because it is dedicated to informants, collaborators of justice. The detainees are employed inside the establishment in works of restoration, care of the vegetable garden and other productive activities, such as an internal pizzeria.
Thus, Pope Francis continues the tradition of celebrating Mass in Caena Domini and carrying out the rite of the washing of the feet in places that can be identified with those that he, himself, describes as “existential peripheries.”
Last year, Bergoglio celebrated Holy Thursday at C.A.R.A (reception center of those requesting asylum) of Castelnuovo di Porto, near Rome. In 2015, he went to the Roman prison of Rebibbia, whereas in the previous year (2014) he opted for the Don Gnocchi Foundation–Saint Mary of Providence Center, which houses disabled persons and those who are not self-sufficient. In 2013, the first Holy Week Francis lived as Pontiff, he went to Casal del Marmo, in Rome, a prison for minors.
During the Mass, Pope Francis washed the feet of detainees and gave a homily, off the cuff, which was broadcast on Vatican Radio.
After the reading of the Gospel, which narrates when Jesus washes the feet of His Apostles and the betrayal of Judas, the Pope pointed out: “Jesus was at the Last Supper, says the Gospel, knowing that His hour had arrived, that He had been betrayed and that Judas was going to betray Him that night.”
Jesus, the Pontiff said, “having loved His own, He loved them to the end,” because “God loves like this.
“He gives His life for each one of us and He wants this.”
“And it is not easy,” he continued, “because we are all sinners, we have defects, limits, we do not know to love, and “because we are not like God, Who loves without looking at the consequences, until the end.”
And to show this, “He who was in charge, Who was God, washes the disciples’ feet.”
The Pontiff explained that it was a custom of the epoch before meals since there was no asphalt and people came with dusty feet. It was a common gesture, the Pope said, “but one done by slaves.”
“[But] Jesus reverses this and He does it Himself.”
The Holy Father said that when he arrived in prison, he saw that on the way in, there were people who greeted him, saying, ‘The head of the Church’.
“Let us not joke, the head of the Church is Jesus,” said the Successor of Peter, adding: “I want to do the same as He does.”
“I do not tell you that today your feet are washed, it would be a joke,” he added. But the washing “is the symbol. If you can do a help, a service to someone, like washing of the feet, it is to become a servant of others.”
Francis recalled that “once the disciples argued over who was the most important. And Jesus told them that whoever wants to be the most important must become the servant of all. “It is what God does with us,” he reiterated, because “he loves us.”
Pope Francis, concluded by noting that “it is not a folkloric ceremony,” but a “gesture to remember what Jesus has given us,” and telling them: “Let us think only of the love of God.”