Vatican City, April 2014 (VIS) – At 5 p.m. the Holy Father left the Vatican for the St. Mary of Providence Centre of the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation, where at 5.30 p.m. he celebrated Holy Mass “in Cena Domini”, with which the Easter Triduum begins. This Maundy Thursday celebration includes the announcement of the commandment to love and the ritual washing of the feet, a gesture of love and humility. When the Holy Father was Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he used to celebrate this Mass in a hospital, a prison or a reception centre for the poor and marginalised, and likewise the Don Gnocchi Foundation is an institution dedicated to the care of people with all types of disabilities, both physical and mental.

The celebration took place in the church within the Centre, and the participants included the guests of the Centre accompanied by their relatives, as well as staff, volunteers, and directors. During the Mass, the Pope washed the feet of twelve disabled persons of various ages, ethnic origins and religious beliefs, representing the patients assisted in the 29 Don Gnocchi Foundation Centres present in Italy, and he briefly explained the meaning of this gesture.

“We have heard what Jesus did, at the Last Supper: it was a farewell gesture. It is the legacy He leaves us. He is God Who made Himself our servant. And this is the legacy He leaves us: you to must serve one another. He took this path for love: you too must love one another and be servants, in love. This is the legacy Jesus leaves us. And washing the feet is a symbolic gesture: the slaves used to to this, servants used to do this for those who came to eat, to lunch or to dine, because in those times the roads were made of earth and, entering the house, it was necessary to wash one’s feet. And Jesus carried out this gesture, the task of a slave or a servant. He leaves this as an inheritance to us. We must serve one another. And therefore the Church, which today commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, during the ceremony also carries out this gesture of washing feet, which reminds us that we must serve each other. Now I too will perform this gesture, but let us all, in our hearts, think of others and think of the love that Jesus tells us we must have for others, and let us think of how we can serve them better, because this is what Jesus wants from us”.