On Holy Thursday, Pope Francis will spend time in Castelnuovo di Porto with young refugees who are hosted by the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, known as the Centro di Accoglienza per Richiedenti Asilo, or CARA. The Pope’s visit will include the celebration of the Rite of the Washing of Feet during which Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 refugees.
During his Jubilee Audience on Saturday 12 March, Pope Francis spoke about the washing of the feet: “By washing the feet of the Apostles, Jesus wished to reveal God’s mode of action in regard to us, and to give an example of his ‘new commandment’ (Jn 13:34) to love one another as He has loved us, that is, laying down his life for us”. Pope Francis spoke about love saying it “is the practical service that we offer to others. Love is not a word, it is a deed, a service; humble service, hidden and silent”. Indeed, “it is expressed in the sharing of material goods, so that no one be left in need”. It is, “the lifestyle that God suggests, even to non-Christians, as the authentic path of humanity.”
The Pope has traditionally celebrated the Holy Thursday Mass in a place that highlights a particular pastoral need. Last year, Pope Francis celebrated the Mass and foot-washing ritual at Rome’s Rebibbia prison where he washed the feet of 12 of the inmates. There is huge symbolic value attached to this year’s visit by Pope Francis to the CARA in Castelnuovo di Porto and his bending down to wash the feet of refugees. His actions tell us that it is important to pay attention to the weakest, to those whose faces bear signs of suffering and violence. By washing the feet of refugees, Pope Francis implores respect for each one of them.