Wednesday 23 March 2016
AFTER SPENDING previous years washing the feet of inmates and disabled persons on Holy Thursday, this year Pope Francis will celebrate the liturgy in a welcoming centre for migrants and refugees.
The Pope will say a Chrism Mass at the Vatican before heading to the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, or CARA, in Castelnuovo di Porto, just over 18 miles outside of Rome, on the afternoon of Holy Thursday.
He will arrive to the centre around 5pm, where he will say the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and wash the feet of 12 migrants welcomed by the centre, many of whom are not Catholic.
The news came in an article from the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano explaining the reason why the location was chosen. The article was written by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.
In previous years Pope Francis has offered the Lord’s Supper Mass on Holy Thursday at a youth detention centre, a rehabilitation centre for the disabled, and a large prison in Rome. This marks the first year he will celebrate the liturgy at a migrant centre.
More than 900 asylum seekers are housed at the centre, virtually all of whom come from sub-Saharan Africa. CARA is one of the most demanding asylum centres in all of Italy.
The Pope’s decision to celebrate the Holy Thursday liturgy at the centre comes after he has repeatedly pled on behalf of migrants’ rights in past few weeks.
In his 16 March general audience Francis appealed to world leaders to open their doors to migrants, lamenting that many are ‘living a real and dramatic situation of exile.’
‘Far away from their homeland, with their eyes still full of the rubble of their homes,’ these migrants often find ‘closed doors’ when attempting to entre another country, he said.
Similarly, on Palm Sunday Francis said that when Christ suffered from the indifference of political leaders in being sent from Pilate to Herod and then back to the Roman governor, he was thinking in particular ‘of so many other people, so many marginalized people, so many asylum seekers, so many refugees.’
Picture courtesy L’Osservatore Romano, taken at the Holy Thursday service in 2015.