Pope Francis, who often pleads for compassion to prisoners, washed the feet of 12 incarcerated women in Rome yesterday in a rite before Easter.
The Argentinian Jesuit visited the Rebibbia women’s prison in the northeastern outskirts of the Italian capital, where he performed the same rite in 2015.
Yesterday, however, was the first time the 87-year-old pontiff had dedicated his annual ritual solely to women.
Seated in a wheelchair, the Pope washed the feet of each of the prisoners, some of them in tears, before drying them off with a towel and kissing them.
“We all have small failures, big failures,” said the Pope in an impromptu homily during a mass held in the courtyard of the prison that holds some 370 women.
“But the Lord is always waiting for us, with open arms, and he never tires of forgiving,” he added.
The washing of feet is “a gesture that draws our attention to the vocation of service,” said Francis, who as a priest in Buenos Aires had already begun visiting prisoners.
A few minutes earlier, the pontiff was all smiles as he shook hands with the inmates.
Last month, the Pope caught a flu that caused him to cancel some public meetings. During his subsequent recovery, he has on several occasions asked others to read his speeches.
Since becoming Pope in 2013, the head of the Catholic Church has often visited prisons and refugee centres, including last year when he visited a juvenile detention centre and washed the feet of 12 young men.
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