“He is God and he makes himself a servant, our servant. …You also must be servants of one another.” This was Pope Francis’ message in his brief, extemporaneous homily given during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper. This year the Holy Father chose to celebrate the Holy Thursday liturgy at the Santa Maria alla Providenza Center, a Roman rehab and treatment facility for the disabled. Following his homily, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 men and women suffering from various physical and neurological disabilities.
Catholic News Service has a video capturing part of the ritual performed by the 77-year-old pontiff:
Below, via Vatican Radio, is the text of Pope Francis’ homily:
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, the church, today, commemorates the Last Supper, when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, he 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 amongst us.
The Vatican Press Office provided some details about the eight men and four women whose feet Francis washed during the Mass this evening:
• Osvaldinho, 16, from Cape Verde, who was in a diving accident last summer and is now completely paralyzed;
• Orietta, 51, a woman from Rome who suffers from an illness that has affected her brain;
• Samuel, 66, who has had polio from his youth;
• Marco, 19, high school student and parish youth group leader who was diagnosed with a cerebral palsy last year;
• Angelica, 86, from Maenza, former president of Catholic Action in Italy, who has had hip replacement surgery twice;
• Daria, 39, who has suffered from cerebral palsy since childhood;
• Pietro, 86, who struggles with mobility and muscular deficiency;
• Gianluca, 36, who has had numerous operations from the age of 14 as a result of meningitis;
• Stefano, 49, who suffers from serious cerebral and motor disorders;
• Hamed, 75, a Muslim man originally from Libya, who was in a traffic accident which caused serious neurological impairment;
• Giordana, 27, from Ethiopia, who suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy;
• Walter, 59, who has Down’s Syndrome.