ROME – In yet another sign of things returning to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis on Thursday led the Mass of the Last Supper in a prison on the outskirts of Rome where he washed the feet of 12 inmates.
In off-the-cuff remarks, Francis spoke about Jesus washing the feet of his apostles, and his command to “wash one another’s feet.” He noted that the feet of Judas were also washed, despite the fact he would later betray Jesus.
“One serves the other, without interest: How beautiful it would be if it were possible to do this every day and to all people,” the pontiff stressed. A service, he warned, that reaches even the “traitor” when those betrayed forgive him and his betrayal.
“God forgives everything and God always forgives!” he said. “It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.”
For the pontiff “each of us has something that has been in his heart for a long time, but he asks Jesus for forgiveness.” And he concluded: “There is a Lord who judges, but it is a strange judgment: The Lord judges and forgives” that is why he invited everyone to “serve and forgive each other.”
According to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni, during the celebration Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 prisoners currently serving time in the jail of the Italian port city of Civitavecchia.
The prison gave the pope a picture of the old port of Civitavecchia, some produce from the garden cultivated by the inmates and some gifts made by the staff and inmates as a souvenir of the visit.
There was no live feed of the celebration, but Vatican Media released a handful of images in which the pontiff is kneeling before the detainees to wash their feet.
During his homily, Francis said that it would be beautiful if people could serve one another, without the “snake” entering. As an example of this, he spoke of public officials who charge for a “tip” to do their jobs.
Before leaving, Francis stopped to greet more than 50 people, representing inmates, officials, and prison staff.
The prison was inaugurated 30 years ago and houses 465 prisoners, although its official capacity is 350. Two years ago, some of those serving time here starred in the Italian film Fortezza, which was shot inside its walls.
Since the beginning of his pontificate, Francis has given special prominence to the rite of foot washing in the Mass of the Last Supper, and has chosen to celebrate liturgy in prisons several times as pope, although one year he celebrated it at a welcoming center for migrants.
Due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Francis suspended these Holy Thursday visits in 2020 and 2021.
Last year, he privately celebrated Mass at the home of Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is currently on trial in the Vatican facing several charges of financial misconduct.
Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma