Asia News : Francis celebrates "in Coena Domini" Mass at the Don Gnocchi Foundation. He washes and kisses the feet of 12 people of different ages, of different disabilities different religious affiliations, three foreigners and nine Italians.
Rome (AsiaNews ) - "An act of love and service," to remind us that "we must be servants to each other". "Think of others" is the message contained in the act of "washing of the feet", said Pope Francis as he washed those of 12 guests at the Don Gnocchi Foundation rehabilitation center St. Mary of Providence this afternoon.
The third pope to visit the Foundation after Paul VI (23 December 1963) and John Paul II (23 December 1990), Francis wanted to perform the rite among the "least", the young prisoners in Casal del Marmo last year, "Don Gnocchi's" disabled today.
People of different ages, of different disabilities and of different religious affiliations, three foreigners and nine Italians. The youngest, Osvaldinho, originally from Cape Verde, 16 years old , confined to a wheelchair following a treacherous dive into the sea last summer. The oldest Peter and Angelica, both 86. The Pope knelt down before each of them, washed, dried and kissed their feet.
The washing of the feet, the Pope said, evoke the gesture made by Jesus during the Last Supper, which is repeated during the "Missa in Coena Domini", which opens the Easter Triduum. "What Jesus did at the Last Supper - Francis said - was a farewell gesture". "It is a sort of legacy that he leaves us. He is God and became a servant, our servant. And this is our inheritance: you too should be servants of one another. And He travelled this path out of love: you too should love each other and be servants, in love. This is the legacy that Jesus left us".
"And - he continued - he makes this gesture of washing the feet, which is a symbolic gesture: the slaves , the servants of the diners would do this for the people who came to lunch, to dinner, because at that time the roads were made of dirt and when they entered a house, their feet had to be washed. Jesus makes a gesture, a task, that of a slave, a servant". "This - he said - he leaves as an inheritance among us. We are to be servants of one another. And for this, the Church, today, we commemorate the Last Supper. When Jesus instituted the Eucharist, in the ceremony, he also this made this act of washing the feet, which reminds us that we must be each other's servants".
"Now - he concluded - I will make this gesture, but all of us, in our hearts, we must think of others and think of the love that Jesus tells us that we should have for others, and also think of how we can serve them better, other people. Because this is what Jesus wanted from us".
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RADIO VATICANA REPORT ON COENA DOMINI
(Vatican Radio) In a gesture of humility and service, and in imitation of Christ, Pope Francis put on an apron and knelt down to wash the feet of 12 patients at a long-term care facility, during the Missa In Coena Domini, or the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, on Thursday evening.
Visibly fatigued and requiring assistance to kneel and stand up again as he came close to the end of the rite, Pope Francis conveyed tenderness and concern for each person, pouring water on each person’s foot, then drying it and kissing it, before offering a loving gaze, sometimes reciprocated, depending on each person’s state of health. The patients ranged in age from 16 to 86, and all suffer from a variety disabilities. All of them are Italian (though three were of a different ethnic origin), including one Muslim man.
The Mass was celebrated in Italian in the chapel of the Santa Maria della Provvidenza Centre, one of more than two dozen healthcare facilities, run by the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation. It reflected the character of the healthcare centre and of the local Christian community, with the centre’s usual Sunday choir, consisting of patients, volunteers and staff, singing popular Italian hymns. Many of the centre’s patients sat in their wheelchairs in the front rows of the assembly.
The Mass, which recalls Christ’s last Passover meal with this Apostles, his washing of their feet in a gesture of service, and the institution of the Eucharist, begins the Easter Triduum.
The Pope’s selection of the location and his gesture of washing the feet of 12 people with disability was intended to underline the forms of fragility, in which the Christian community is called to recognize the suffering Christ and to which it must devote attention, solidarity and charity.
In his brief homily, the Pope recalled that God made himself a servant in Christ and that this is the inheritance of all believers. Christ came to love and his followers, in turn, “need to be servants in love”.
Speaking extemporaneously, he said to wash the feet of another was, in Jesus’ time, the task of the slave or the servant of the house. In executing this gesture, Jesus tells his followers that they are called to be servants to each other.
“Everyone here must think of others… and how we can serve others better,” he said.
At the end of the Mass, the Pope carried the Blessed Sacrament to an Altar of Repose. He remained there in prayer until the end of the Pange Lingue hymn, after which he processed out of the chapel in the usual silence with which the Holy Thursday evening liturgy concludes.
This is the second year the Pope celebrates the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper among a group of people usually marginalized by society. Last year, the Pope celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Last Supper at a youth detention centre.
Text from Vatican Radio website