Five days after his release from hospital, where he was admitted for bronchitis, Pope Francis went to a youth prison on the outskirts of Rome on Thursday to wash the feet of inmates.
It is a traditional rite that repeats the gesture Jesus made during the Last Supper, when he washed the feet of his disciples as a sign of love and service.
“Washing feet was a custom in those days, because the streets were dusty, people came from outside and before eating at home they washed their feet, but who washed feet? Slaves, it was a slave labour. Imagine how astonished the disciples were when they saw Jesus doing this slave thing,” said Pope Francis.
The 12 inmates were of various nationalities, with 10 men including one Muslim, and two women.
The frail 86-year-old is testing his stamina with his busy schedule of events during the Easter week, the holiest in the Christian calendar.
Before going to the prison, he presided over the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, when large vats of oil were wheeled up to the altar for him to bless.
It will be used for baptisms, the rite of extreme unction, ordination, and confirmation ceremonies.
In his speech, he failed to mention the scandals or cover-ups of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, and warned against gossip and insinuation.
The Pontiff said he was thinking about some of the priests “in crisis” and encouraged them to trust in God who he said was greater than any human weakness and sin.