Thursday, April 18, 2019

Mass of the Lord's Supper in Prison

At 3:30pm this afternoon local time (9:30am EDT), the Holy Father, Pope Francis left the Domus Sanctae Marthae and paid a visit to the Velletri Prison in Rome where he celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper.

Upon his arrival, at approximately 4:30pm, the Pope was welcomed by the Director of the penitential centre, Doctor Maria Donata Iannantuono; as well as the Associate Director, Doctor Pia Palmeri; the Commander of the Prison Police, Doctor Maria Luisa Abossida; and the Chaplain, Father Franco Diamante.

The Holy Father then greeted some representatives of the civil personnel, the Police and the prisoners.  Then, at 4:45pm, in the prison theatre, His Holiness presided over the celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper with the rite of the washing of feet, thereby beginning the Easter Triduum.

Following the proclamation of the gospel, the Pope shared an unscripted homily.  Then, following the prescribed ritual, he washed the feet of 12 of the prisoners who are from four different countries: 9 of them are Italians, 1 is from Brazil, 1 from the Ivory Coast and 1 from Marocco.

At the conclusion of the celebration, after some words of greeting offered by the Director of the Prison, and following the exchange of some gifts, the Holy Father returned to the Vatican.

Unscripted Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
during the Mass of the Lord's Supper

I greet you all and I thank you for your welcome.

I received a beautiful letter, a few days ago, from some of you who could not be with us today, but who told me some beautiful things and I thank you for what you wrote.

In our prayer, we are very united to all of you: those who are here and those who could not.

We have heard what Jesus did. It is interesting. The Gospel says: Jesus, knowing that the Father had given everything into his hands, that is, Jesus had all the power, everything. And then, he begans to make this gesture of washing their feet. It was a gesture that slaves did at that time, because there was no asphalt in the streets and people, when they arrived, had dust on their feet; when they came to a house for a visit or lunch, there were slaves who washed their feet. And Jesus makes this gesture: he washes their feet. He poses a slave gesture: He, who had all the power, He, who was the Lord, performed the slave gesture. And then he advised everyone: Do this gesture even among yourselves. In other words, serve one another, be brothers in service, not in ambition, as those who dominate each other or those who trample over others; instead, be brothers in service. Do you need something, a service? I will do it for you. This is fraternity. Fraternity is humble, always: it is at the service of others. And I will make this gesture - the Church wants the Bishop to do it every year, once a year, at least on Holy Thursday - to imitate the gesture of Jesus and also to do well with the example even toward himself, because the Bishop is not the most important person, but he must be the most ready to be a servant. And each of us must be the servant of others.

This is Jesus' rule and the rule of the Gospel: the rule of service, not of dominating, of doing evil, of humiliating others. Service! Once, when the apostles quarrelled among themselves, they discussed who is most important among us, Jesus took a child and said, The child. If your heart is not a child's heart, you will not be my disciples.  The heart of a child, simple, humble but the heart of a servant. And there, he adds an interesting thing that we can connect with this gesture today. He says: Be careful: the leaders of the nations dominate, but among you it must not be so. The older one must serve the smaller one. Whoever feels the greatest must be a servant. All of us must also be servants. It is true that in life there are problems: we quarrel among ourselves ... but this must be something that passes, a passing thing, because in our hearts there must always be this love of serving the other, of being at the service of the other.

And this gesture that today I will enact for all of us a gesture that will help us to be more servants of each other, more friends, more brothers in service. With these feelings, we continue the celebration with the washing of the feet.

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