It was roughly 5.30 in the afternoon when Pope Francis arrived to Rome's Rebibbia prison to lead the Mass of the Lord's Supper. He greeted about 150 prisoners who were waiting to greet him at the entrance.
The Pope thanked them from the start.
"I thank all of you for this great welcome. Thank you so much.”
Although it's one of the most solemn ceremonies of the year, when the Pope walked into the prison Chapel to celebrate Mass, the inmates, who were visibly moved started applauding.
The Pope didn't read a prepared homily. Speaking off the cuff, he explained that Jesus' sacrifice is based on love for each and every person.
"Everyone can say, 'Jesus gave up His life for me.' He gave his life for you, you, and you, for me, for them ... For everyone first and last name included. His love is personal. His love never disappoints because Jesus never tires of loving. He never tires of forgiving. He never gets tired of embracing us.”
The Pope washed the feet of 12 inmates, half of them women, to commemorate Jesus' Last Supper. He got down on his knees with difficulty, as he kissed and washed the feet of four Italian men, one Brazilian and another Nigerian. The female inmates are from Nigeria, Congo, Italy and Ecuador. One of them had her baby in her arms...the Pope also washed the baby's feet.
Holy Thursday honors the day when Jesus instituted both the Eucharist and the priesthood. Back then washing other people's feet was something done only by slaves. Through this gesture, Jesus, said the Pope, was reiterating the importance of service and charity.
For these inmates, it will be a day to remember. A sign of hope and dignity for prisoners serving time. At the end of the Mass, they're appreciation was quite obvious.