As part of Holy Thursday ritual, Pope Frances washed and kissed the feet of 12 prison inmates at a facility in Rome. The inmates included two Muslims and a Buddhist and it marked a Christian ritual in which the most revered figure in the Christian community—the pope—shows humility by kissing the feet of other people. The ritual recalls Jesus’ gesture of humility towards his 12 apostles on the night before he died.
This is the sixth time that the ritual was held in an institution rather than in the fineries of the Vatican or a Roman basilica. Even since the pope was appointed in this position, he has made it a point to hold the ritual in an institution and also include women and non-Christians in the ritual, for which he has also gotten criticized.
He visited Rome’s Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) jail in the center of city, to perform the rite. The 12 male inmates were from Italy, the Philippines, Morocco, Moldavia, Colombia and Sierra Leone. Eight were Catholic, two were Muslim, one was an Orthodox Christian and one a Buddhist.
During the visit, Pope Francis also gave a sermon around the theme of service, saying that many wars could have been avoided in history if the leaders had considered themselves servants of the people rather than commander.
He also asked for the punishment of death penalty to be abolished. “A punishment that is not open to hope is not Christian and not humane,” he said in response to closing comments by the prison director, a woman.
“Each punishment has to be open to the horizon of hope and so the death penalty is neither Christian nor humane,” he said.
Ever since Pope Frances was elected in 2013, he has repeatedly called for a worldwide ban on capital punishment. However, a lot of people, especially conservative Christians, oppose his liberal views.