Pope washes the feet of Muslim, Hindu migrants

Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Christian and Hindu refugees on Thursday and declared them all children of the same God

Pope Washes Feet of Muslim Migrants, Says ‘We Are Brothers’

Castelnuovo Di Porto

Mar 24, 2016)

Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees today, declaring them children of the same God, in a gesture of welcome and brotherhood at a time when anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment has spiked following the Brussels attacks.

Francis denounced the carnage as a “gesture of war” carried out by blood-thirsty people beholden to the weapons industry during an Easter Week Mass with asylum-seekers at the shelter in Castelnuovo di Porto, outside Rome.

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.

Francis contrasted that gesture with the “gesture of destruction” carried out by the Brussels attackers, saying they wanted to destroy the brotherhood of humanity represented by the migrants.

“We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” Francis said in his homily, delivered off-the-cuff in the windy courtyard of the centre.

Several of the migrants then wept as Francis knelt before them, poured holy water from a brass pitcher over their feet, wiped them clean and kissed them.

Francis was greeted with a banner reading “Welcome” in a variety of languages as he walked down a makeshift aisle to celebrate the outdoor Mass.

But only a fraction of the 892 asylum-seekers living at the shelter attended, and many of the seats were left empty. Those who came out, though, received a personal greeting: At the end of the Mass, Francis greeted each refugee, one by one, posing for selfies and accepting notes as he moved down the rows.

Vatican rules had long called for only men to participate in the ritual, and past popes and many priests traditionally performed it on 12 Catholic men, recalling Jesus’ 12 apostles and further cementing the doctrine of an all-male priesthood.

Francis shocked many Catholics within weeks of his 2013 election by performing the ritual on women and Muslims at a juvenile detention centre. After years of violating the rules outright, Francis in January changed the regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate.

The Vatican said today that four women and eight men took part. The women included an Italian Catholic who works at the centre and three Eritrean Coptic Christian migrants. The men included four Catholics from Nigeria, three Muslims from Mali, Syria and Pakistan and a Hindu man from India.


2 replies

  1. It is worth asking at least whether or not the fact that Jesus washed the feet only of his disciples, and followed it up with the command that they do likewise FOR EACH OTHER, i.e., within the household of the faith, not to mention his subsequent words that they “love EACH OTHER”, so that, in this way, “all people will know you are my disciples”–again, it is worth asking…at least…is it not?…whether all this is significant, and whether what the pope is doing veers, in terms of Christian object lesson, from what Christ was, essentially, telling his followers.

    Someone may object: “Oh, so you’re saying Jesus told Christians only to love Christians?!”

    To which (silly, knee-jerk) objection, the obvious answer is no.

    If we care to genuinely engage intelligently with the act Jesus committed, and listen to His own (!) interpretation, then certain conclusions turn out to be self-evident. Jesus told Peter there was no need to wash his hands and his head because a person who’s just had a good bath doesn’t need a bath all over again; all he needs to do is wash the dust of the road off of his feet. (And the Lord added that not all in the room had had the all-important “bath”, referring to His betrayer Judas.). Then He went on to tell his disciples they must do for each other what He had done for them. Clearly, the all-cleansing bath is Christ’s unique, unrepeatable saving act of atonement/redemption; it goes to the very core of the imbedded, fatal Sin and drives it out. That is our “bath”. It can only happen once. But along life’s road, as we follow Jesus, we do indeed pick up dust–we sin, we yield to unworthy, unholy impulses and temptations–and we come back to the Lord for forgiveness and cleansing.

    In what was obviously a viscerally jarring, humiliating object lesson, Jesus portrays the love with which believers must attend to each other’s spiritual journey, and, astoundingly, CONFERS upon them the honor and duty to help each other along the way of sanctification, to wash the “dust of the road” from each other’s hearts and minds. What’s important here is, this is something that believers do for believers. It is entirely within the context of a shared faith and common journey.

    While the pope is well-intentioned, I fear that his public act profoundly misrepresents–dare I say, violently distorts–the very core and intrinsic import of Jesus’ own act. Moreover–and I really, really DON’T like saying this…yet I think I must–I cannot squelch a certain cynicism over a very public, very celebrated, ritualized act of “profound humility”. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns against the long flowery prayers recited on street corners, for all to hear and admire. When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, including the feet of the one who wasn’t “clean”, there were no cameras around, and the only audience on hand was genuinely shocked, embarrassed, even appalled. How can we observe this annual papal tradition, therefore, without being awkwardly aware of the difference (a difference only heightened by the distortion of the essential lesson Christ invested in it), aware of a certain contrived, self-conscious artificiality in it all?

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