According to a Vatican report, Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at a Center for Asylum Seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, some fifteen miles north of Rome, where he plans to wash the feet of twelve young refugees during the feet-washing ceremony.
“By washing refugees’ feet, Francis demands respect for them all,” said Archbishop Fisichella, main organizer of the Vatican’s Year of Mercy initiatives. “Welcoming refugees thus becomes for Christians a tangible expression for living the Jubilee of Mercy,” he noted..
The President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, observed that majority of the young refugees are not even Catholic, he called the Pope’s gesture “a simple but eloquent sign” of humble service and concern for the plight of the migrants.
“Pope Francis will bow down and wash the feet of 12 refugees as a sign of service and attention to their condition,” the archbishop said.
“It indicates respect as the main path to peace,” he continued. Respect means recognizing the other as a person, one who “walks with me, suffers with me, rejoices with me.”
The center directly owned and run by the Auxilium Social Cooperative, told reporters that 4 women and 8 men were selected for the foot-washing ceremony. An Italian Catholic woman who works at the center and three women who belong to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church were chosen, as were four Nigerian Catholic men, a Hindu man, and Muslim men from Syria, Pakistan and Mali.
With tens of thousands of people fleeing persecution and violence in many parts of the world, too many countries seem to think the best solution “is to close their borders to feel safer or to build new walls,” the archbishop said.
Shortly after his election as Pope in 2013, the Holy Father broke tradition in washing the feet of women, Orthodox Christians and Muslims in a juvenile detention facility. The rite was previously restricted to men.