Pope Francis to wash feet of prisoners in pre-Easter Mass

Pope Francis in St Peter"s Square (19 March 2013) Pope Francis has called for Roman Catholics to be closer to the poor and disadvantaged

Pope Francis will celebrate Mass on Thursday next week by washing the feet of prisoners in a youth detention centre in Rome, the Vatican has said.

It says the pontiff is continuing a pre-Easter practice that began when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires.

Normally feet-washing Masses before Easter are held in the Vatican or a Rome basilica.

But Pope Benedict held a feet-washing Mass at the same Casal del Marmo youth detention centre in Rome in 2007.

Pope Francis will stage his feet-washing ceremony at Casal del Marmo on the afternoon of 28 March.

The washing of feet on the Thursday before Easter is a Christian tradition dating back to the time of Christ.

During the service, the pope washes and kisses the feet of 12 people to replicate the Bible's account of Jesus Christ's gesture of humility towards his 12 apostles on the night before he was crucified.

"With this celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will continue this custom, which is characterised by its humble context," a statement by the Vatican said.

It said that Pope Francis would also celebrate Mass earlier on Holy Thursday in St Peter's Basilica.

The new pontiff, the first from Latin America, has called for the Roman Catholic Church to be closer to ordinary people, especially the poor and disadvantaged.

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