They came from Mali, Eritrea, Syria and Pakistan. They were Muslim, Hindu, Catholic and Coptic Christians. And one by one, Pope Francis knelt down before these migrants on Holy Thursday and washed their feet.
The ritual, performed in a center for asylum seekers outside of Rome, comes amid anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and in the wake of a terrorist attack in Brussels, for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility.
“All of us together, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelical 1/8 Protestants3/8 brothers and sisters – children of the same God – we want to live in peace, integrated,” Francis said during his homily.
The foot-washing ritual became a part of Holy Thursday Mass in the 1950s. Jesus washed the feet of his 12 apostles at the Last Supper. The symbolic act also imitates Jesus’s gesture of servitude.
A number of the migrants whose feet were washed by the pope had tears streaming down their faces.