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Pope washes feet of 12 prison inmates at Holy Thursday Mass


  • Pope Francis kisses the foot of an inmate April 13 at Paliano prison outside of Rome as he celebrates Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
  • Inmates embrace as Pope Francis prays April 13 at Paliano prison outside of Rome. The pontiff celebrated Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper and washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
  • Pope Francis is greeted as he arrives at Paliano prison outside of Rome to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
  • Pope Francis prays in front of a statue of Mary April 13 at Paliano prison outside of Rome. The pope celebrated Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper and washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
  • Pope Francis washes the foot of an inmate April 13 at Paliano prison outside of Rome as he celebrates Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)
  • Pope Francis celebrates Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper at Paliano prison outside of Rome. The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates at the maximum security prison. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In a gesture of service toward marginalized people, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates, including three women and a man who is converting from Islam to Catholicism.

Although in Jesus' time, washing the feet of one's guests was performed by slaves, Jesus "reverses" this role, the pope said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper April 13 at a prison 45 miles from Rome.

"He came into this world to serve, to serve us. He came to make himself a slave for us, to give his life for us and to love us to the end," hesaid.

Pope Francis made his way by car to a penitentiary in Paliano,which houses 70 men and women who testified as a witness for the state against associates or accomplices.

To protect the safety and security of the prisoners, only a live audio feed of the pope's homily was provided by Vatican Radio as well as selected photographs released by the Vatican.

The Vatican said April 13 that among the 12 inmates who participated in the foot washing ceremony, "two are sentenced to life imprisonment and all the others should finish their sentences between 2019 and 2073."

In his brief homily, which he delivered off-the-cuff,the pope said that upon his arrival, people greeted him saying, "'Here comes the pope, the head of the church.'"

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