Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people — women and non-Catholics among them — on Thursday in a pre-Easter ritual designed to show his willingness to serve others like a “slave.”
Francis’ decision in 2013 to perform the Holy Thursday ritual on women and Muslim inmates at a juvenile detention center helped define his rule-breaking papacy just two weeks after his election. It riled traditionalist Catholics, who pointed to the Vatican’s own regulations that the ritual be performed only on men since Jesus’ 12 apostles were men.
But as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio frequently performed the ritual on women — a practice he seems intent on keeping up now that he is pope.
The 2014 edition brought Francis to a center for the disabled and elderly in Rome. Francis kneeled as he washed, dried and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs, some with grossly swollen and disfigured feet.
The Vatican didn’t release the exact breakdown of their religious backgrounds but said they came from various religions. Italian news reports said one was a Libyan Muslim and four were women.
Jesus made a gesture, a job, the service of a slave, a servant. And he leaves this inheritance to us: We need to be servants to one another.”