Pope to wash the feet of 12 young people on Holy Thursday
By Thaddeus Jones
Pope Francis has chosen a penitentiary institute once again to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper with the rite of the washing of feet. On Thursday 6 April he will go to the Casal del Marmo juvenile prison on the outskirts of Rome. He will be returning to where he celebrated the first Mass "in Coena Domini" of his pontificate back in 2013. This year's celebration will be private in nature in that it is not open to the general public, but it will be live streamed by Vatican Media.
12 young people
The Pope will wash the feet of 12 young people of different nationalities during the Holy Thursday liturgy at the Casal del Marmo istitution. The gesture marks a sign of solidarity with them, an encouragement to see each other as brothers and sisters, and to find beauty in their lives, despite the rejection and abandonment of society they might feel.
Great care and concern
In a press release issued by Italy's Inspectorate of Prison Chaplains, Fr. Raffaele Grimaldi said this shows the Pope's closeness to those who are often rejected by society and simply labelled "a problem". And Pope Francis' visit again to this institution after ten years shows his extraordinary concern for the inmates, he notes, also serving to "sensitise society, institutions and policy making" so that education, positive role models and social integration are possible.
Fr. Grimaldi says he's personally moved by the Pope reaching out in this way, describing it as "a gesture of love and mercy towards the existential peripheries of young people living in prison," for which he and the Casal del Marmo community are grateful. He adds that Pope's expression of care and concern in meeting with the inmates brings to mind the affection of a "grandfather who goes to embrace his grandchildren...who cry out their pain and know that they will not be judged for their mistakes, but offered encouragement and invited to never to lose hope."
The young inmates are often crushed by the mistakes they have made, Fr. Grimaldi explains, and they often "carry in their hearts a cry of suffering and anger." He hopes the Pope's visit with them will offer them consolation for the abandonent, loneliness and loss, they often feel.
Act of mercy
The gesture of washing the feet of these young people Fr. Grimaldi descibes as an act of mercy and solidarity, an action that does judge or condemn, but looks to the longer term goal of a justice that invites those who have done wrong to rebuild broken bonds, a restorative justice that puts pain and suffering at the centre. Helping to heal the wounds suffered by all means putting the human person at the centre.
Care for the abandoned
In his homily on Palm Sunday, 2023, Pope Francis said, "entire peoples are exploited and abandoned...there are prisoners who are disowned; people written off as problems...Brothers and sisters, today let us implore this grace: to love Jesus in his abandonment and to love Jesus in the abandoned all around us. Let us ask for the grace to see and acknowledge the Lord who continues to cry out in them. May we not allow his voice to go unheard amid the deafening silence of indifference. God has not left us alone; let us care, then, for those who feel alone and abandoned."
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