Pope Francis washes feet of young inmates

(Photo: L'Ossevatore Romano)Pope Francis washes the foot of a young man at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention center in Rome on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 young people in a detention center in Rome on Thursday where he celebrated Mass and re-enacted Jesus' washing the feet of his 12 disciples ahead of his crucifixion.

The Pope washed the feet of 10 young men and two young women who were selected at Casal del Marmo.

There were nearly 50 young people from the center invited to celebrate Mass. The action continues a ritual Pope Francis has celebrated for years as a Cardinal in Argentina.

In his homily the Pope explained about people helping one another.

"Now we will perform the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet and we must each one of us think, Am I really willing to help others? Just think of that. Think that this sign is Christ's caress, because Jesus came just for this, to serve us, to help us," said Francis.

Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica reported one of the young women was a Muslim born in Rome with a Serbian background. The other was a Catholic from Rome. The other 10 were selected to represent the different nationalities in beliefs. Among them are Orthodox Christians and Muslims.

(Photo: L'Ossevatore Romano)Pope Francis kisses the foot of a prisoner at Casal del Marmo youth prison in Rome March 28, 2013. Two young women were among 12 people whose feet Pope Francis washed and kissed at a traditional ceremony in a Rome youth prison on Holy Thursday, the first time a pontiff has included females in the rite. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano

Father Gaetano Greco, chaplain of the center, told L'Ossevatore Romano on Wednesday he was initially perplexed by the desire of the Pope to visit.

He said that most of the center's detainees were Muslim and some have no religious beliefs.

"Therefore many of them don't even know who the Pope is. For this reason too, it was far from easy to explain to them the importance of the Pope's visit," he said.

He said one young man from Naples attempted to explain the situation to his fellow inmates.

Seeing his amazement, Greco said the others "realized that it must really be something very special and began to question me. Little by little, I saw their enthusiasm growing."

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