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Pope washes feet of young prisoners on Holy Thursday

Pope repeats call to negotiate in Ukraine, Gaza
Source: Video Screenshot

Pope Francis, who often champions poor and marginalised people, celebrated the traditional Holy Thursday Mass by washing the feet of 12 young inmates in a juvenile detention centre in Rome.

The Argentine Jesuit, who was hospitalised last week for bronchitis, spent Thursday afternoon at the Casal del Marmo detention centre in the north of the Italian capital.

It was the second time he visited the facility, performing the same rite in 2013 soon after being elected pontiff.

Leaning on a cane, Francis stood before each of the 12 inmates — including two women — to wash their feet before bowing down to kiss them.

In return, some of the inmates kissed the hand of the smiling pope, while others exchanged a few words with him.

“I hope I can make it because I can’t walk very well,” the 86-year-old pope joked during a short impromptu homily, referring to his knee pain that has forced him to rely on a wheelchair.

The pope spent three nights in the hospital last week after complaining of breathing issues and was treated for bronchitis.

Among the group of inmates were young people from Senegal, Romania, Croatia and Russia, according to Vatican Media, which broadcast the event live.

In the Christian tradition, Holy Thursday commemorates the day when Christ washed the feet of the apostles and performed the Eucharist at his last meal, known as the Last Supper.

The ritual has been perpetuated in Christianity, except for some branches of Protestantism.

It is a highlight of Holy Week, which commemorates the last days of Christ and precedes Easter.

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has taken this celebration outside the confines of the Vatican.

In recent years, he has made several visits to prisons and refugee centres, washing the feet of repentant inmates, former mafia members, the sick and people from other religions.

On Thursday morning, Pope Francis presided over the traditional Chrism Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, where the holy oil is blessed for the celebration of certain sacraments throughout the year.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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