Vatican City, 29 March 2013 (VIS) – At 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon, Holy Thursday, Pope Francis left the Vatican to go to the Casal del Marmo Penitential Institute for Minors where he celebrated the “in Coena Domine”—the Lord’s Supper—Mass, which is the first of the Easter Triduum. Around fifty of the boys and girls detained at the juvenile centre located on the outskirts of Rome were in attendance. The Pope washed the feet of ten boys and two girls and, in his homily, said that their obligation is to help others “as a priest and as a bishop should be at your service. It is a duty that comes from my heart.”
At the moment of washing their feet, Pope Francis kneeled six times, each time washing the feet of the young people in front of him. The Holy Father began by washing their feet, then dried them, and finally kissed them. The girls whose feet he washed were an Italian and an Eastern European. Following is the full text of the homily that the Pope delivered after the Gospel was read.
“This is touching. Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. Peter did not understand anything; he refused. But Jesus explained to him. Jesus—God—has done this! And He himself said to his disciples: ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me “teacher” and “master”, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.’ (Jn 13:12-15)”
“This is the Lord’s example: He is the most important one and He washes [other’s] feet because those who are the highest among us must be at the service of others. And this is a symbol, a sign, isn’t it? Washing someone’s feet is [saying] ‘I am at your service’. And us too, among us, shouldn’t we wash one another’s feet every day—but what does this mean? That we must help each other, help one another. Sometimes I’m angry at someone … but … let it go. Forget it. And, if someone asks a favour of you, do it. Help each other.”
“This is what Jesus teaches us and this is what I am doing. I do it wholeheartedly because it is my duty. As priest and as bishop I must be at your service. But it is a duty that comes from my heart: I love it. I love this and I love doing it because the Lord has taught me this. But you as well, help each other; always help each other; help one another.”
“And so, in helping one another we do good to each other. Now we’ll have this ceremony of washing of the feet and we will think, each of us will think: ‘Am I truly ready, am I ready to serve and to help another?’ Let’s just think of that. And let’s think that this sign is Jesus’ caress that Jesus does because He came precisely for this: to serve and to help us.”
Concelebrating the Mass with the Holy Father were Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar general of Rome, Archbishop Angelo Becciu, substitute of the Secretariat of State, Msgr. Alfred Xuereb, the Pope’s personal secretary, and the institute’s chaplain, Fr. Gaetano Greco, a tertiary Capuchin of Our Lady of Sorrows, with one of his confreres. The Mass was celebrated in the institute’s chapel, which is dedicated to the “Merciful Father”. Of the youth in attendance, around 11 were girls. At the end of the ceremony, Pope Francis again gathered with the youth in the institute’s gym where, among others, the Italian Minister for Justice, Paola Severino, was present. The youth of the detention centre gave the Pope a wooden crucifix and kneeler, which they had made themselves in the institute’s workshop.
Before leaving, the Pope thanked the youth for welcoming him and when one of the youth asked him why he had decided to visit their detention centre the Pope answered that his heart had compelled him. “It is a feeling that came from my heart; I felt it. Where are those who, perhaps, will help me most to be humble, to be a server as a bishop must be? And I thought, I asked: ‘Where are people who would like me to visit?’ And they told me: ‘Perhaps Casal del Marmo.’ And when they told me that, I came here. But it just came from my heart. Matters of the heart cannot be explained; they just come [to you]. Thanks!” On bidding them farewell he told the youth: “I’m going now. Thank you so much for your welcome. Pray for me. Don’t let yourselves be robbed of hope. Always go forward. Thank you very much!”