VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis has decided to celebrate the Holy
Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper in a Rome juvenile
detention facility and wash the feet of some of the young
It marks a change in venue of the previously scheduled March
28 Holy Week event from St. Peter's Basilica to Rome's Casal
del Marmo prison for minors.
While the practice of his predecessors has included washing
the feet of priests or laypeople, the ceremony was normally
held in either St. Peter's Basilica or the Basilica of St.
The Vatican said that, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Pope
Francis used to celebrate the Mass of the Lord's Supper -
which reflects on the call to imitate Christ by serving one
another - in prisons, hospitals or shelters for the poor and
"With the celebration at Casal del Marmo, Pope Francis will
continue that practice, which must be carried out in a
context characterized by simplicity," the Vatican said in a
March 21 statement.
The Mass of the Lord's Supper highlights "the commandment of
love" and service through the ritual of washing the feet of
others, the statement said.
The other Holy Week and Easter events and celebrations were
expected to remain as previously scheduled, the Vatican said,
including the pope celebrating the morning chrism Mass on
Holy Thursday in St. Peter's Basilica, in which the chrism
and the oils used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation,
ordination and the anointing of the sick are blessed.
At the start of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI reversed a
20-year Vatican tradition of washing the feet of priests
during the Holy Thursday evening Mass. In 2006 and 2007, he
returned to a practice in effect before 1985, when he washed
the feet of 12 laymen from the Diocese of Rome during the
From 2008 onward, Pope Benedict switched back to washing the
feet of 12 priests from the Rome diocese.
From 1985 to 2001, Blessed John Paul II washed the feet of 12
priests each year during the Holy Thursday Mass. Beginning in
2002, because of his weakened physical condition and his
inability to walk, the pope had cardinals perform the
foot-washing ritual, but always washing the feet of 12
However, in the first six years of his pontificate, Pope John
Paul continued Pope Paul VI's practice of washing the feet of
For several years, Pope John Paul washed the feet of elderly
laymen, including a group of homeless men living at a shelter
run by the Missionaries of Charity in 1980. In 1983, he
washed the feet of 12 young men from Italy's Boys Town, and
in 1984 the 12 were representatives of Rome parish youth
In 1974, Pope Paul washed the feet of 12 boys undergoing
therapy for the effects of polio. In 1977, he washed the feet
of 12 boys, ages 12-14, who were students at the Rome
Diocese's minor seminary.
Pope Benedict visited the Casal del Marmo prison in 2007,
meeting with the young detainees in a gym and celebrating
Mass with them in the prison chapel.