There was much speculation about where Pope Francis would celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening, April 14, 2022. Italian prison chaplains have broken the silence in a statement published on April 13: The head of the Catholic Church will visit the Civitavecchia prison in private, where he will wash the feet of 12 inmates.
At the penitentiary of this port city in the Lazio region, which houses some 500 inmates – a hundred more than regulations allow, according to the Ministry of Justice – the Pope will transmit a message of “closeness and hope,” the note said.
As he did in Buenos Aires as archbishop, the Argentine Pontiff generally commemorates the washing of the feet with people somehow “on the margins” of society, particularly those in prisons or refugee centers.
Pope Francis has chosen “once again an existential periphery,” says Father Raffaele Grimaldi, head of the Italian prison chaplains. He sees washing the feet of prisoners as an act that is “humble, incomprehensible, and scandalous, which Jesus the Good Shepherd has given to humanity.”
Father Grimaldi paid tribute to the 85-year-old pope who, despite “his physical fatigue and hidden sufferings, never tires of traveling dusty, muddy, and uneven paths […] and is not ashamed to get his hands dirty to wash the feet of so many Judases condemned by human Justice, but saved by God’s Mercy.”
Since his election in 2013, the Bishop of Rome has chosen to depart from tradition and not celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome, as his predecessors did.
He has visited a detention center several times, in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019. In 2020, there was no washing of the feet because of the health crisis and in 2021, he celebrated the Last Supper with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who is at the center of a major financial trial in the Vatican.
Before Francis, Pope John Paul II paid a pastoral visit to the penitentiary of Civitavecchia on March 19, 1987.