By Devin Watkins
This is the fifth time that Pope Francis has chosen to celebrate the Mass in Coena Domini at a prison.
Travelling to the south of Rome on Holy Thursday afternoon, the Pope celebrated this year’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the prison of Velletri.
The “District House of Velletri” is a medium-security facility that houses 577 inmates, 60% of whom are foreigners.
Gesture of a slave
In his off-the-cuff homily, Pope Francis thanked the inmates for their warm welcome and said he had received a beautiful letter from several of them.
The Pope reflected briefly on the gesture of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples, which priests around the world repeat on Holy Thursday.
He said Jesus carries out an act of service, which was usually done by slaves. “He, the Lord who contained in himself all power, carries out the gesture of a slave,” he said.
Jesus, he said, then told his disciples to do the same for each other in service.
“Be brothers in service: not in ambition but in service,” the Pope said.
Each of us, said Pope Francis, needs to be at the service of our neighbor.
Washing of the feet
After the homily, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 prisoners who hail from 4 nations. Nine are Italian, and 1 each from Brazil, Ivory Coast, and Morocco.
In previous years, the Pope celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Casal del Marmo, Rebibbia, Paliano, and Regina Coeli prisons.