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Pope Francis washes feet of convert to Catholicism from Islam

AFP PHOTO / OSSERVATORE ROMANO/HO
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Pope celebrates Holy Thursday Mass at ex-Mafiosi prison with iconography workshop, pizzeria and pastry shop

VATICAN CITY — Among the prisoners whose feet Pope Francis will wash on Holy Thursday evening is a convert to Catholicism from Islam, the Vatican announced today.

On Holy Thursday afternoon, the pope will travel to Paliano Prison, south of Rome, to meet with inmates. He will then celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the first liturgy of the Easter Triduum.

During the Mass, Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 detainees, including three women, and a male convert to Catholicism from Islam who will be baptized in June. The 12 also include an Argentinian, an Albanian and several Italians. Among these, two are serving life sentences, while the others are expected to finish their sentences between 2019 and 2073, the Vatican said.

Paliano’s detention center is located in the province of Frosinone and the Diocese of Palestrina. It is the only Italian prison dedicated to housing “collaborators of justice.” These prisoners are repentant, former mafia member who have agreed to collaborate with the justice system in exchange for reduced sentences and security provided by the Italian state.

The 70 prisoners take part in a program that includes work, education, formation, cultural activities, sports, and religious formation. According to the director of the penitentiary centery, Nadia Cersosimo, the project is aimed at “avoiding idleness, … breaking prejudices and opening the way for reintegration.”

Activities include an iconography workshop, a pottery class, training in Prison for ex-mafiosi includes iconography workshop, pizzeria and pastry shopa pizzeria and a pastry shop, a carpentry and restoration workshop, and a farm that includes rabbits, pigs, goats and chickens.

The inmates prepared several gifts for the Pope, including produce from their garden, a cloak made of white wool, and sweet cakes. As pictured in the photo below, their brand name is “Products from the Rock.”

Vatican Secretariat for Communications
Photo courtesy of Secretariat for Communications

During the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Pope Francis will deliver an unscripted homily to the inmates, the Vatican said. Both the meeting and Mass will be “strictly private.”

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