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Pope to perform pre-Easter feet-washing ritual in prison near Rome


Vatican City – Pope Francis was due on Thursday to carry out the traditional pre-Easter ritual of washing the feet on 12 inmates of a prison near Rome.

The Holy Thursday ritual recalls the gesture that Jesus is believed to have performed for the 12 apostles before the Last Supper to show them how their leader was capable of the most humble act.

“It will definitely be moving for each of the prisoners, believers or nonbelievers,” the chaplain of the Velletri prison, Father Franco Diamante, told Vatican News.

Francis is scheduled to arrive at 4:30 p.m. (1430 GMT) and stay for two-and-a-half hours to greet staff and inmates, celebrate Mass and exchange gifts, the Vatican said in a statement.

The foot-washing happens during Mass.

The pope is expected to kneel before each of the 12 prisoners selected for the ritual.

The Vatican said that there would be nine from Italy, one from Brazil, one from the Ivory Coast and one from Morocco.

The prison is about 50 km South-east of the Vatican.

According to Associazione Antigone, a prisoners’ rights group, the prison is overcrowded, and its cells are damp and mouldy.

Francis has made a habit of celebrating the Holy Thursday ritual outside of traditional church settings to reach out to people in difficult situations.

Easter, falling on Sunday, celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and is the most important Christian holiday.

The washing of the feet is one of several religious events leading up to it. (dpa/NAN)

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