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A Muslim's feet washed by Pope Francis on Holy Thursday: I started crying when I had him in front of me

Just one kilometer from St. Peter's Basillica is the Regina Coeli prison.

There, the memory of Pope Francis is still very present. In March, he celebrated Holy Thursday with the prisoners and washed the feet of 12 of them. Among them was Ali, who is Muslim.

“When I arrived, I said to my companion next to me. But ... do we have to wash ourselves or the Pope? And he said: 'No. It is he who does it. ' The Pope then explained that as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, so would he. I still did not believe it but when he approached me, I started crying ... I could not believe it.”

“For you this has been like a caress from God?”

“Yes. Yes.”

Ali Bahaze fled Algeria in 1992, when he was a teenager and since then he has had a hectic life. Hoping to leave his past life and restart again, he helps in the infirmary and would like to continue dedicating himself to health care when he leaves.

“We are all human and we all make mistakes. But if you give me another chance I will not fail. I do not want to return here. If they help me, if they forgive me ... I will not come back here again. I have one year in prison. I appreciate the help management is giving me a lot. Hopefully it will all go well when I leave. I'm not coming back here.”

In his visits to the prisons, the Pope always transmits two messages: one of hope for the prisoners and a demand for more support from public institutions. He asks that the jails serve to reintegrate the prisoners and not abandon them.

“At times it may seem that prisons are intended more to prevent people from committing crimes than to promote the process of rehabilitation that allows us to address the social, psychological and family problems which lead a person to act in a certain way.”

Visits to prisons have become essential for Pope Francis on his trips. He gives prisoners time and words of encouragement, which sends a strong message to the whole society. He says that a country is only capable of recomposing itself to the extent it cares for the sick, forgives prisoners and seeks to reintegrate them.