Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 inmates at Rome’s central prison during a Holy Week ritual meant to show his willingness to serve others.
The Vatican said Tuesday that Francis will meet March 29 with inmates at the Regina Coeli prison, including those in the special ‘protected’ wing where sexual predators are housed.
Francis has made the Holy Thursday ritual a hallmark of his papacy, part of his insistence that the Catholic Church must go to the margins of society to serve.
His decision five years ago to celebrate his first foot-washing ceremony at a Rome youth detention center raised eyebrows among conservatives after he washed the feet of women and Muslims as well.
The tradition started on Holy Thursday in 2013, which came just days after his papacy began.
It was a gesture towards those who had been marginalised, and he washed the feet of 12 young offenders.
Three years later, according to The Tablet, Francis issued a decree which making it clear the foot washing would not be exclusive to men.
He changed the law to include women and girls.
Having made the amendment, he said it was ‘an attempt to improve the method of implementation, to express the full meaning of the gesture performed by Jesus at the Last Supper, his gift of himself to the end for the salvation of the world, his boundless charity’.
Regina Coeli prison is the most famous in the Italian capital, and during its 363 years has been a range of things – from a Catholic convent to a police academy.
Translated to Queen of Heaven prison, Mother Theresa paid it an incognito visit back in 1994 to attend mass with inmates.
Earlier today, Pope Francis asked forgiveness for all Christians who buy sex from women, saying men who frequent prostitutes are criminals with a ‘sick mentality’ who think that women exist to be exploited.
‘This isn’t making love. This is torturing a woman. Let’s not confuse the terms,’ Francis insisted.
The Pope made the comments during an intimate, four-hour-long listening session with 300 young people who were invited by the Vatican to Rome.
The purpose of the session was to help church leaders learn about young people’s attitudes towards the Catholic Church.
Francis, who has made the fight against human trafficking and modern-day sex slaves a priority of his pontificate, urged young people to take up the fight against trafficking and forced prostitution.