Click here to advertise on

Pope washes feet of prisoners—male and female—at Holy Thursday liturgy

Catholic World News - March 28, 2013

“I do this with all my heart,” Pope Francis said as he washed the feet of a dozen young prisoners at Rome’s Casal del Marmo detention center.

“It is the example set by Our Lord,” the Pope said, recalling how Jesus washed the feel of his disciples. “It’s important for Him to wash their feet,” he said, “because among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others.” He encouraged the young detainees to ask themselves: “Am I really willing to help others.”

As part of the traditional liturgy of Holy Thursday, at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Pope washed the feet of 12 young detainees: 10 male and 2 female. He thereby disregarded the liturgical rules of the Church, which specify that the celebrant should wash the feet of males in the congregation, in a gesture that recalls Christ’s service to his own 12 apostles. Although many other bishops and priests have included women in the ceremony, Pope Francis became the first Pontiff to do so.

The papal Mass was not open to the media, but his homily was broadcast and photos were made available after the ceremony. Pope Francis had surprised other Vatican officials by his announcement that he would celebrate the Holy Thursday liturgy in a prison, following the pattern that he had established in the Buenos Aires archdiocese.

Additional sources for this story
Some links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our September expenses ($33,685 to go):
$35,000.00 $1,314.54
96% 4%
Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Apr. 01, 2013 12:25 PM ET USA

    Mario--I accept that the Holy Father has full authority to do what he did. The point all of us are making here is that everything he does has a huge impact at the parish level at East Wherever. If he is going to change liturgy, it should be a conscious process and the faithful should be given a heads-up.

  • Posted by: mario.f.leblanc5598 - Mar. 29, 2013 8:22 PM ET USA

    Remember the priest, the levite and the Samaritan? Are we asking Francis, acting like the Samaritan, to be more priest-like or levite-like? I am not here to tell the pope what to do, but whatever he does should be regarded in good faith rather than with suspicion.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Mar. 29, 2013 7:28 PM ET USA

    It's a lead story on the Drudge report; people are taking notice. Polemics will go on for some time. Nonetheless, we're in confused times and this action is nothing if not a source of confusion. As we encounter tremendous confusion in the natural order related to serious issues and growing pressures on the Church to consider married priests and to expand the role of women in the Church to the point of ordination, it gives many pause. We can't judge nor ought we pretend; "watch and pray."

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Mar. 29, 2013 12:04 PM ET USA

    We just acquired a pastor who enforced the rubric for the first time in living memory in this parish. It is difficult to accept the point that Pope Francis is making here, and I sympathize with the other commentators.

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Mar. 28, 2013 6:50 PM ET USA

    Traditionally, the Pope CANNOT break a rubric. If he does something liturgically "contra legem," then by that fact, it is then legal for all priests to do that in the liturgy. So we are now free to wash the feet of women without any moral qualm. Like it or not, that's the tradition.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Mar. 28, 2013 6:07 PM ET USA

    So, once again, those who have gone out on a limb to defend a tradition are left "holding the bag." They're made to look like fools for trying to hold to traditional practices. It was the same story with girls serving on the altar. I think people in ministry like our new pope have to learn that this will cause many to throw up their hands saying "you simply can't trust these fellows (i.e. Rome) not to change their 'rules' from one day to the next. Best to just cave in from the start."

Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on

Recent Catholic Commentary

Ezra the Odd: A Lesson in Fidelity? 0 hours ago
Famous actors bring the New Testament to dramatic life in this audio Bible 21 hours ago
Preparing for the Jubilee of Mercy 23 hours ago
Final Liturgical Year volume for 2014-2015 now available August 31
Church Fathers: The Third Century and the School of Alexandria August 29

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis: welcome with compassion those who have remarried outside the Church CWN - August 5
Pope Francis: SSPX priests will licitly and validly absolve sins during Jubilee of Mercy CWN - September 1