It has been widely reported that, when he was still the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires, the future Pope Francis washed the feet of women during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Now he has done so as pope.
Here are some thoughts on Pope Francis’s decision and what it means.
This Year’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper
It was surprising but not surprising when the Holy See announced that Pope Francis had chosen to celebrate this year’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper not in one of the papal basilicas of Rome but, instead, in its juvenile prison.
That’s precisely the kind of gesture that we have come to expect from the new pope in the short time we’ve been getting to know him.
It’s not traditional, but it’s humble and evangelistic.
And it corresponds to Jesus’ remarks that, when we visit those in prison, we are spiritually visiting him (Matthew 25:36-40).
It’s also in keeping with things he’s done before, such as holding the service in a maternity hospital in Buenos Aires in 2005.
So what happened with the footwashing ceremony this year?
The BBC is reporting:
During Thursday’s intimate service, the Pope washed and kissed the feet of 12 young detainees to replicate the Bible’s account of Jesus Christ’s gesture of humility towards his 12 apostles on the night before he was crucified.
The 12 inmates included two girls, one Italian Catholic and one of Serbian Muslim origin, local prison ombudsman Angiolo Marroni said ahead of the ceremony.
That’s certainly a dramatic gesture.
A Muslim Girl?
It had been announced, in advance, that the young people who were going to be participating in the ceremony would be coming from different religious backgrounds, so this wasn’t a total surprise, but it was a striking choice.
What should we make of it?