- Aug 3, 2020
ROME – Celebrating one of the most unusual Holy Thursday Masses of all time, which took place in a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis remembered priests living and dead amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying they along with doctors and nurses represent the “saints next door” during the crisis.
For pilgrims flocking to Rome’s famed Scala Santa this week as they commemorate the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and death, the opportunity to climb the relic on the bare marble for the first time in 300 years is something many said has brought them closer to God.
Jesus’ gesture of washing his disciples’ feet, an act once reserved to servants and slaves, is one that all Christians, especially bishops, must imitate, Pope Francis told hundreds of inmates and prison employees on Holy Thursday.
Speaking to fellow priests Thursday, Pope Francis compared the flocks they lead to the crowds that constantly surrounded Jesus, who was able to recognize individual people, heal their wounds and who was often moved by their faith. This personal closeness, he said, gives a priest a pastor’s heart and keeps his vocation from growing stale.
In the six years that he’s sat on the Chair of Peter, images of Pope Francis have captivated the world with his tender paternal gestures and his continued defense of the poor, marginalized and those otherwise forgotten by society, and no other liturgy captures this better than his Masses and foot-washing ceremonies on Holy Thursday.