On Holy Thursday Pope Francis washed the feet of disabled men and women from various religions, nationalities and ethnicities. His act of kindness was in commemoration of the actions of Jesus, just as he did with his 12 disciples at the Last Supper. The Pope went to a center in Rome for the elderly and disabled. There he knelt down, washed, dried and kissed the feet of these 12 individuals; some with feet which were swollen, disfigured and others were wheelchair bound.
Francis said he performed the ritual to remind himself how important it is to serve others, just as Jesus did before his crucifixion. The Pope said Jesus made a job, a gesture, a servant, the service of a slave and he has left this inheritance to his people. “We need to be servants one to another.”
He arrived early in the morning in his blue Ford Focus where he greeted the young and old who were waiting to see him. There were nearly 200 people at the prayer mass; including medical support staff, the disabled patients and their families all joined together in music and singing.
The Pope began by reading the Gospel account of the Last Supper. He explained the importance of the ritual of washing feet in a message lasting no more than two minutes. Francis explained how dirty the feet were that Jesus so graciously humbled himself to wash. The men of that day had walked on dirt roads with nothing more than sandals but Jesus was happy to do the work of a servant.
Francis could have carried out this ritual in St. Peter’s Basilica but preferred to do so in a situation on the margin of human existence; just as he had done the year prior. Francis said this act was the “testimony” that Jesus left for the rest of us. He called his followers to serve others and as a result “We should ask ourselves how we can better serve other people.”
Immediately after his short exhortation the Pope then knelt down and began washing the feet of eight men and four women. These disabled people were between the ages of 16 and 86-years-old. It was obvious to many that this took great effort from the 77-year-old Argentinean Pope who did not seem to mind at all. After he washed and dried their feet he looked up and greeted each one with a loving smile.
The 12 recipients were chosen from the many thousands of patients at the Don Gnocchi Foundation Healthcare and Research centers. These 30 centers, which were founded by an Italian priest named Don Gnocchi, are spread out across Italy. Gnocchi started the Foundation 60 years ago and it has consistently embodied what Pope Francis has called “moving out to the peripheries.” In other words, the Foundation has always searched for and supported the very people who society had discarded and forgotten.
Each person who was chosen has received support from the Foundation in order to overcome the marginalization, isolation and difficulties they face due to their disability or age.
Chairperson of the Centre for Innovation and Technology Transfer at the Foundation, Dr. Frio Grammatica, said that some might think the 12 people chosen cannot fully grasp the meaning of the Pope’s visit but this is not true for even the most critical cases. Grammatica, who joined the Foundation 10 years ago, said all of their guests have developed a clear “sixth sense” on how much they are loved. He concluded by saying Pope Francis is more than just a Pope, he is an icon of strength and tenderness and the recipients were very excited to meet him.
Pope Francis washed, dried and kissed the feet of 12 disabled men and women from various religions, nationalities and ethnicities on Holy Thursday. His act of kindness was in commemoration of the actions Jesus performed with his 12 disciples at the Last Supper.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)