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Washing the feet of the outcast

ROME (AsiaNews): Pope Francis stressed that the Christian community does not exist simply for its own benefit when he celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday, March 24, at the CARA Welcome and Hospitality Centre outside Rome that provides temporary lodging and services to some 900 asylum seekers.

Through his gesture of service he showed that the Christian community exists to be of service to the wider society and, as the leader of the community, the priest is called to serve all people, irrespective of whether they are members of his flock or not.

As Pope Francis prepared to wash the feet of 12 people, he said that actions and gestures speak louder than words.

He described two opposite gestures that are presented in the scriptures; one an expression of hospitality and brotherhood, and the other an expression of not wanting to live in peace—which is embodied in the perpetrators of the March 22 terrorist attacks in Brussels.

Among the 12 whose feet he washed, 11 were refugees—four Catholics from Nigeria, three Coptic women from Eritrea, three Muslims from Syria, Pakistan and Mali, a young Indian Hindu and one Italian Catholic woman from the staff at the centre.

The pope said, “There are, in the word of God that we read, two gestures.” He described the first as Jesus, as the head of the group, washing the feet of the others, even of the least of them.

The second gesture he said is embodied in Judas, who went to the enemies of Jesus, those who did not want peace, and sold his very life itself for a meagre 30 pieces of silver.

“Even today, here, there are two gestures. One is symbolised by all of us together—Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelical brothers and sisters as the children of the same God, who want to live in peace,” he said.

The other gesture he said is reflected an act of war carried out against a European city three days ago by people who do not want to live in peace and, behind that gesture, as behind the one of Judas, there were also those who profiteer from the abuse of human dignity.

Pope Francis said that behind Judas there were those who offered money for Jesus’ arrest and behind the terrorist attack there are the arms manufacturers and the dealers who want blood, not peace. “They want the war, not fraternity,” he said.

“Two gestures, just the same: Jesus washes feet, Judas sells Jesus for money. Here, you, us, all of us together, of different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers and sisters are together—and there, there are those poor people, who buy weapons to wreck fraternity,” he said.

He asked people to say to themselves as he washed their feet, that although they are from different cultures and religions, they are brothers and sisters with a deep desire to live in peace.

“This, then, is the gesture that I make with you. Each of us has a story, each of you has a story you carry with you. There are many crosses, many sorrows: but also an open heart that wants brotherhood,” he said.

The pope then asked those gathered in the centre to each in their own religious language to pray that the brotherhood of the Lord will be contagious and that there will be no 30 pieces of silver offered to purchase a brother or sister’s murder and that there will always be goodness.

In Seoul, South Korea, Andrew Cardinal Yeom Soo-jung celebrated Mass at a Caritas facility for single mothers who have had the courage not to give up their babies, despite the pressure often put on them to do so.

Bishop Timothy Yu Gyeong-chon celebrated Mass at a nursing home for people in their sunset years and Bishop Peter Chung Hee-song washed the feet of abused and abandoned children at a shelter.


The 12 people chosen to have their feet washed in Myeongdong Cathedral were made up of parking attendants and cleaners from the diocesan staff, a migrant worker, unemployed people and a volunteer at a home for children with physical disabilities.

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