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Pope Francis washes and kisses feet of Muslim, Hindu and Catholic refugees for Easter Week

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:03 IST
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  • The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles before being crucified, and is meant as a gesture of service.
  • A fraction of the 892 asylum-seekers currently living at the shelter attended, though others milled around nearby and filmed the event on their smartphones.

On Friday, Easter eve, Pope Francis visited a refugee centre to wash and kiss the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees.

Many experts claim that this is a welcome gesture at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments have spiked as a result of the Brussels and Paris attacks.

The Pope celebrated the traditional Easter Week foot-washing ceremony at a refugee shelter in Castelnuovo di Porto, outside Rome and inaugurated the most solemn period of the Catholic Church's Easter season, AP reported.

The Holy Thursday rite re-enacts the foot-washing ritual Jesus performed on his apostles before being crucified, and is meant as a gesture of service.

Breaking gender barriers:

Vatican rules had long called for only men to participate in the ritual. Past popes and many priests traditionally performed it on 12 Catholic men, recalling Jesus' 12 apostles. But after years of violating the rules outright, Pope Francis in January changed the regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate.

The Vatican said on Thursday that four women and eight men had been selected. The women include an Italian who works at the centre and three Eritrean Coptic Christian migrants. The men include four Catholics from Nigeria, three Muslims from Mali, Syria and Pakistan, and a Hindu from India.

First published: 25 March 2016, 7:00 IST
 
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