Pope Francis washes feet of prisoners in Italian jail on Holy Thursday

Pontiff resumes Holy Thursday prison tradition for first time in two years.

Pope Francis visited a prison near Rome to preside over a Holy Thursday Mass during which he washed and kissed the feet of 12 prisoners.

The private ceremony at the jail in the port town of Civitavecchia, 80km north-west of Rome, was held among inmates, prison staff and Italy's justice minister Marta Cartabia.

The foot-washing ritual commemorates the gesture of Jesus at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of his apostles, the night before he died, as a sign of humility and service.

The pontiff washed the feet of 12 inmates, men and women, including people of various ages and nationalities, reports Vatican News.

In a homily in the prison chapel Francis said: "Jesus teaches us this, simply, that you must wash each other's feet... We serve one another, without expecting a return: how beautiful it would be if it were possible to do this every day and to all people."

The pope added that "God forgives everything and God always forgives!"

Part of the pontiff's liturgical programme leading up to Easter, the service saw Francis resume a tradition of visiting jails on Holy Thursday.

He began the custom after his election in 2013 but it was suspended for the last two years due to Italy's covid restrictions.

Pope Francis greets prisoners and staff at Civitavecchia jail. Photo Vatican Media.

On the night of Good Friday, 15 April, the pope will preside over the Via Crucis, a candle-lit ceremony that commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus, with Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum in Rome.

The Vatican's decision to have Ukrainians and Russians participate together in one of this year's stations has led to objections by Ukraine's embassy to the Holy See and the Ukrainian Byzantine-rite Catholic Church.

The pope will preside over an Easter Vigil Mass in St Peter's Basilica on Saturday evening and an Easter Sunday Mass in St Peter's Square at 10.00 followed by the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing.

Photo Vatican Media