On Holy Thursday Pope Francis went to the outskirts of Rome to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at the Casal del Marmo juvenile penitentiary where he carried out the traditional rite of the washing of feet of twelve of the young people there. Diversity characterized the group, varying in ages from 14 to 25 years of age, ten young men and two young women, two of them of Sinti origin, the others from Croatia, Senegal, Romania, and Russia, representing various faith traditions.
The Pope previously visited the Casal del Marmo institution in 2013, right after he became pope, when he chose to celebrate the Holy Thursday liturgy “in Coena Domini” there.
A noble heart for all
In his homily given without a prepared text, the Pope focused his thoughts on the Gospel of the liturgy that recounts when Jesus, a day before his Passion, washes the feet of his disciples in a gesture of humility and service, something that back in that time, would have been carried out by a slave.
Called to help each other
In conclusion, the Holy Father explained that his gesture of washing the feet of the twelve young people present is not just a folkloristic gesture, but a sign of how we should be with one another – helping each other, showing each other love and respect for the immense dignity of all, even in our weaknesses as sinners. If we adopt this attitude and spirit of service, he said, we could alleviate so many of the injustices in our world. He went on to remind us that being unemployed, in broken families, struggling to survive, succumbing to our weaknesses, is something that can happen to each one of us at any time.
The Lord reminds us, through the washing of the feet, of his boundless love for us, the Pope added, no matter what our situation and weaknesses, as He is always by our side, never ever forsaking us.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the Pope blessed a large inaugural plaque for the chapel dedicated to Blessed Fr. Pino Puglisi, the famous Sicilian parish priest who was murdered because he challenged organized crime.
The Pope greeted the young people held at the penitentiary and received the gift of a cross that they made during their woodwork course, as well as some biscuits and pasta produced by the young people. The Pope gave them, the director and personnel of Casal del Marmo rosaries and chocolate Easter eggs, an Italian tradition.