ROME – 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.
Images of the pontiff embracing the child, the migrant, the prisoner, the elderly and the disabled have tugged at the world’s heartstrings, from the beginning provoking a global examination of conscience and jolting the world’s attention to the most discarded members of society.
Arguably nothing has captured this tenderness quite like the pope’s Holy Thursday liturgies commemorating the night when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples before his arrest, which he’s chosen to spend at venues such as prisons, youth detention centers and migrant welcoming facilities.
It is in these places that Francis has sought to spark the “revolution of tenderness” of which he so often speaks, leaving many whose feet are washed weeping not so much because the pope has washed their feet, but because it is precisely in that gesture that they feel the embrace of Jesus Christ himself, who despite their struggles and their sins, has not forgotten them.
This year that tenderness will again be on display as Francis visits the Casa Circondariale di Velletri prison, where he will wash the feet of 12 inmates, located roughly 36 miles south of Rome.
However, while there are still no photos of this year’s foot-washing ceremony, Holy Week – the week leading up to the events of Jesus’ Passion and death before Easter – has taken on a special significance in the wake of the fire which on Monday ravaged Paris’s iconic Notre Dame cathedral, one of the most historic and beloved structures in France, leaving many Catholics grieved yet hopeful that like Christ’s desecrated and crucified body, this too will be made new.
As Francis initiates the activities commemorating Jesus’ trial, death and resurrection, here is a look back at some of his most striking Holy Thursday moments so far.