For his first ever Maundy Thursday mass as newly installed pontiff of the 1.2-billion strong Roman Catholic secular religion faith, Pope Francis has chosen to hold it at a youth prison wherein his 12 disciples during the re-enactment of the washing of the feet will be acted out by prisoners themselves.
At a time where the world confronts too many issues on the economic and political front, not to mention the very pillars of Pope Francis' Catholic faith being pounded by sex abuse crisis as well as corruption allegations, the washing of the feet of 12 young prisoners, is very symbolical of the hope the new pontiff wants to extend beyond the walls of Vatican City.
This year's washing of the feet by Pope Francis will happen at the Rome's Casal del Marmo juvenile detention center to be participated by select 12 youth prisoners, aged 16 to 21 years old.
The Pope's visit "will make them see that their lives are not bound by a mistake, that forgiveness exists and that they can begin to build their lives again," Father Gaetano Greco, prison chaplain, told CNA.
The washing of feet on the Thursday before Easter is a Christian tradition commemorating Christ's Last Supper.
Fr Greco shared some of the young men eagerly volunteered to participate in the holy tradition, while others were extended an invitation.
This, as Fr Greco explained, was because most of the detained youth are Muslims. "Only eight of our residents are Italian, six boys and two girls."
There were also others who have no religious belief at all.
"Therefore many of them don't even know who the Pope is. For this reason too, it was far from easy to explain to them the importance of the Pope's visit," Fr Greco said.
"But all of them are very happy, and the visit will make them think, reconsider and understand that there are people in this world who are concerned for them," he said.
Many of the youth prisoners came from broken families, took to illegal drugs and engaged in various crimes.
Around 10 girls and 40 boys are expected to participate in the mass. Apart from their participation in the washing of the feet, the youth will also lead the readings and the prayers of the faithful.
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