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BY Edward Pentin
Pope Francis gave an improvised homily during the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which was held at S. Maria della Provvidenza, a rehabilitation and long-term care facility in the suburbs of Rome. During the Mass, he washed and kissed the feet of 12 residents of the home: nine Italians, one Muslim from Libya, a young man from Cape Verde and an Ethiopian woman.
The following is an English translation of Pope Francis’ reflections. Translation by Vatican Radio.
"We have heard what Jesus did at the Last Supper: It is a gesture of farewell. He is God and He makes Himself a servant, our servant. It is like an inheritance. You also must be servants of one another. He crossed this path by love. Also you must love each other and be servants in Love. This is the inheritance that Jesus leaves us. And He makes this gesture of washing feet, which is a symbolic act. The slaves performed this, the servants at the meals for the people who came to dine because at that time the streets were made of dirt, and when they entered in a house it was necessary to wash one’s feet. And Jesus made performed this action, a work, a service of a slave, of a servant. And this He leaves like an inheritance amongst us. We must be servants of each other.
And for this reason, the Church, today, commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, also—in the ceremony—performs the action of the washing of the feet, which reminds us that we must be servants of one another. Now I will perform this act, but all of us, in our hearts, let us think of others and think in the love that Jesus tells us that we have to have for the others and let us consider also how we can serve better, other people. Because Jesus wanted it this way among us."
After the Mass, the Holy Father had lunch with ten Roman priests. Holy Thursday is when the Church celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. Yesterday’s meeting, from 1pm to 2.30pm, took place in an atmosphere of “simple cordiality”, L’Osservatore Romano reported. “In this way, the bishop of Rome was able to learn more about the experiences of some of his priests, especially those engaged in particularly difficult situations," the newspaper said. “The ten spoke about their reality and Pope Francis listened carefully to what was reported to him, encouraging the priests in their mission."