Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of Muslim, Orthodox, Hindu and Catholic refugees during Holy Thursday Mass at a refugee centre on the outskirts of Rome.
Nicole Winfield reported from Rome in The Washington Post that in Castelnuovo di Porto, Pope Francis declared Muslim, Christian and Hindu refugees children of the same God, as he performed a gesture of welcome and brotherhood at a time of increased anti-Muslim sentiment following the Brussels attacks.
Francis denounced the carnage as a “gesture of war” carried out by blood-thirsty people beholden to the weapons industry.
“We have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace,” the pope said in his off-the-cuff homily, delivered in the windy courtyard of the center.
Francis shocked many Catholics within weeks of his 2013 election by performing the ritual on women and Muslims at a juvenile detention center. After years of violating the rules, in January he changed the regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, explained that the Vatican norms are meant for traditional liturgies in Catholic communities, not necessarily a unique papal Mass where the overall message is one of universal brotherhood and the love of God for all his children. He added that Francis clearly intended the message to be universal. “All of us, together: Muslims, Hindu, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals. But brothers, children of the same God.
“We want to live in peace, integrated.”