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March 2016: Pope Francis washed the feet of refugees on Holy Thursday

In the month marking his three-year anniversary as pontiff, Pope Francis once again was the first to go to confession during the Lenten penitential liturgy. Two days later, he went to the town of Ariccia with the Curia to spend a few days in a spiritual retreat, without any private hearings or meetings. ; Before returning, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis approved rules to avoid excessive expenses in the process of canonization, which is a new standard in favor of economic transparency. The refugee situation was one constant during the month. First, in one General Audience he turned away from the prepared speech to discuss the importance and his preference for welcoming refugees. ; ; POPE FRANCIS "When they try to go somewhere else, people close their doors. And they stay there, at the border, because many doors and many hearts have been closed." ; Then, during Holy Week, he sent constant messages in favor of solidarity with the refugees. The strongest gesture of all was on Holy Thursday, when he knelt before a group of refugees to wash their feet, just as Christ did with the apostles. ; ; The then-recent terrorist attacks in Brussels had just claimed 35 lives and the pope did not overlook the opportunity to denounce the arms trade. ; ; POPE FRANCIS "Three days ago, an act of war, of destruction in a European city, by people who do not want to live in peace. But behind that gesture, just as behind Judas, there were others. Behind Judas there were those who gave the money so that Jesus would be handed over. Behind "that" gesture, there are manufacturers, arms dealers who want blood, not peace; they want war, not brotherhood." ; At the end of the ceremony, Pope Francis greeted each of the 800 refugees who were present one-by-one. ; He also spoke about terrorism on other occasions during the month, especially during the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. At the conclusion, the pope recited a prayer in which he listed the countless dramas of our time. POPE FRANCIS "O Cross of Christ, today too we see you in expressions of fundamentalism and in terrorist acts committed by followers of some religions which profane the name of God and which use the holy name to justify their unprecedented violence." ; During the month of March, Pope Francis held official meetings with the president of Portugal and the Dukes of Luxembourg, although, undoubtedly, one of the most special moments was when the definitive date of the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta was announced for September 4, 2016. ; JRB/MB RR -S -PR Up: JD