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Pope Francis will hold Mass on Holy Thursday at Casal del Marmo Detention Center in Rome and will wash the feet of incarcerated youth there, the Vatican announced Thursday.
“As Archbishop of Buenos Aires. . . Cardinal Bergoglio used to celebrate Mass in a prison, hospital or hospice for the poor or marginalized,” said a Vatican report. “With the choice to go to a prison for juvenile delinquency, Pope Francis has thus decided to continue this course and to maintain the simplicity whereby he has always lived.”
In the Gospel of John, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples just before his trial and crucifixion. Following this example, church leaders often perform foot washings during Holy Week as a symbol of their humility and service.
Francis’ understated papal style—emphasizing humility, service and the plight of the poor —has led to some rare (as of recent) good press for the church, more covered for the fallout of a global sexual abuse scandal and reports of hierarchy in-fighting. But some traditional church-watchers fear that a too down-to-earth papacy could degrade the office and concede too much to modern culture.
Still, the sight of a servant pope has undoubtedly boosted the Catholic Church’s image.
“All this can be called mere symbolism but it’s good symbolism, and good Francis knows it is needed,” wrote The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan.
Online, supporters have been more than glad to share the good news of the new pope. Photos of then-Cardinal Bergoglio washing the feet of young AIDS patients and kissing the feet of newborn babies have been widely shared through social media.