This Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will wash the feet of prison inmates and say Mass at their penitentiary.
The Pope will visit Paliano prison south of Rome the afternoon of April 13. He will make a private visit and say the Mass of the Last Supper, Vatican Radio reports.
For Holy Thursday in 2013, just after becoming Pope, Francis visited the Casal del Marmo youth detention center in Rome and celebrated Mass there. This occasion was notable for being the first time a Pope included females and non-Christians among those whose feet he washed.
At the time, liturgical law permitted only men’s feet to be washed in the Holy Thursday ceremony.
In January 2016, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments modified the Roman Missal to allow for women’s feet to be washed at the Holy Thursday Mass.
The decision was made in concert with Pope Francis.
In a letter to the congregation’s prefect, Cardinal Robert Sarah, Pope Francis wrote: “For some time I have been reflecting on the rite of the washing of the feet, which forms part of the Liturgy of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, with the intention of improving the ways in which it is put into practice, so that we fully express the meaning of the gesture made by Jesus in the Upper Room, his gift of self until the end for the salvation of the world, his boundless charity.”
The Roman Missal’s text was modified to say that “those chosen from among the People of God are accompanied by the ministers”, while it had previously read: “the men chosen are accompanied by the ministers”.
Many parishes around the world had already been including women in the ritual for years; the decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship made the practice licit.
In 2014, Pope Francis said the Holy Thursday Mass at the Don Gnocchi center for the disabled.
In 2015 he visited Rome’s Rebibbia prison for the Holy Thursday Mass.
For Holy Thursday in 2016 Pope Francis visited a center for asylum seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto, a municipality just north of Rome. He washed the feet of refugees, who included Muslims, Hindus, and Coptic Orthodox Christians.