March 28th, 2013
01:25 PM ET
Why is the pope washing prisoners’ feet?
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
(CNN) — In ancient times, when roads were bad and footwear was worse, the washing of a guest's feet was a required sign of hospitality. Today when someone comes to your home, you’re more likely to offer to take their coat and bring them a beverage rather then have the help fetch a basin to refresh their worn feet.
The gesture of a servant's washing a newly arrived guest’s feet is sprinkled throughout the Jewish and Christian scriptures. That the characters in question were respectable, hospitable, and well off would have been culturally recognizable to earlier readers. In the Christian tradition, one story of feet washing entirely changed the paradigm.
In the Biblical accounts of the Easter story, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey to adoring crowds. Just a few days later he gathers his 12 disciples for what would be their Last Supper before he was crucified.
According to the Gospel of John, after everyone has reclined at table before the meal, Jesus, dressed as a servant, washes their feet. The disciple Peter recoils at the sight of his master taking on the role of a servant.
Jesus then explains to them, “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:15 NRSV)
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Christians have carried on this practice of role reversal for the past two millennia, particularly during Holy Week. On Holy Thursday believers commemorate the Last Supper, where after he washed the disciples' feet, Jesus went on to institute the practice of Communion – breaking bread to symbolize the sacrifice of his body for his followers to atone for their sins, the core of Christian belief.
Thursday in Rome, Pope Francis continued a long papal tradition when he participated in the foot-washing rite.
In a radical departure from tradition, Francis said Holy Thursday Mass not at the ornately appointed Basilica of St. John Lateran, but in a small chapel with nearly 50 teenage boys and girls at Casal del Marmo Penitential Institute for Minors, a juvenile detention center. The 76-year-old leader of a more than 1 billion Catholics called up 12 of the young inmates from different nationalities and “diverse religious confessions,” according to the Vatican. Among the group of twelve were two women and two Muslims.
He stooped down before them, one by one, with a basin of water and washed their feet.
This is the continuation of a personal custom; when he was Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the archbishop of Buenos Aires, he famously washed the feet of AIDS patients and drug addicts.
Those who know him are not surprised that on Holy Thursday he looks to the poor and marginalized.
“Really, what he’s doing is very much in character,” said the Rev. Thomas Rosica, who has served as a Vatican spokesman during the papal transition.
Rosica said the timing of the election also factored into why the new pope selected a prison over a cathedral.
“Technically, he couldn’t celebrate the Mass at St. John Lateran because he hasn’t yet taken possession of the cathedral.” But it is a fair assumption that had he wanted to have Mass there, it would have happened.
For several years Rosica lived in the Middle East, where foot-washing is still done, "and it’s the lowliest person in the house who does that as a sign of great respect.”
“There’s something extremely intimate about that, when you’re touching someone’s feet,” he said.
Rosica said that with the ceremony, the pope is applying biblical texts to concrete actions.
Pia de Solenni, an ethicist and moral theologian, said the significance of Jesus Christ washing the disciples' feet resounds over the centuries: “At that time and now there’s that sense of hierarchy, or that clergy are set apart, that they’re somehow preferred. What Jesus is teaching and what I think is the authentic understanding of the priesthood in the Catholic Church is that the priest - your teacher, your leader - is first and foremost a servant,” she said.
“That’s really turning the worldly understanding of who a leader is upside down.”
The ceremony for the young prisoners is another in a growing list change brought by Francis. After his election this month, he refused the papal limo and rode the bus with the other cardinals.
On Tuesday the Vatican announced Francis had opted to stay in room 201 at Case Santa Marta, the Vatican guest house, instead of moving into the palatial papal apartment.
For his inaugural Mass and again on Palm Sunday, he opted for an open-air "popemobile," foregoing the safety-glass-enclosed version that became the vehicle of choice for public processions following an assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.
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The changes have, in part, led to overflow crowds for the new pope’s public appearances and headaches for his security detail; he has shown he is willing to break out of the bubble to greet the faithful and kiss seemingly every baby in sight.
“He’s making a very special place for the poor, the disenfranchised,” Rosica said. “He’s kind of taken the world by storm by the symbols and the signals he’s given."
Monsignor Kevin Irwin, a professor at the Catholic University of America, told CNN from Rome that foot-washing "has always been - for priests, bishops and popes throughout the centuries - a role reversal. That is to say, those who are marginalized become center stage and the one who is usually center stage washes their feet."
Irwin said Francis’ choice to wash prisoners' feet fits in with a broader narrative of the new pope’s journey. Whereas his predecessor, Benedict, came to the papacy by way of the scholarly library and high Vatican offices (Rosica called him "the Mozart of theologians") Francis “has a pastor’s heart."
“In that sense he’s probably more of a journeyman than he is a highly accomplished scholar," Irwin said. "In the process we’ll all get on board with the journeyman." And journeymen, he said, "make the world work.”
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
John 13: 1-17 (Jesus washes the feet of the disciples). But did he? Said passage is a single attestation found no where else in the NT making said passage historically nil by rigorous modern day standards.
atheists are the cause of all the world's problems
reality is on to something. this bonehead thinks she's found the smoking gun. a genuine debatable biblical contradiction. foot washing is only mentioned once! to think. the horror! dorothy doesn't mention she trashes everything biblical regardless how many times it is referenced.
dottie, get a job. earn your way. quit smoking. go for a walk. air out your life
Please listen to "mzh" what ever he said is true.....
Why is the pope washing prisoners’ feet? Same reason their sunday morning feasts are so cheap with a sip of wine and a piece of bread the size of a chiclet? Must have something to do with being green. They want to be the mediator.
There is a line in the book of Sirach, that states "the greater you are the more you should humble yourself".
Jesus did that and we should do it too. So why? in that same book it also says" in humility have self esteem" for the humble sees clearly while the proud and self important are too puffed up to recognize their shortcomings or do something about it.
I'm really excited about Pope Francis and I'm looking forward to learn from hos Christ centered teachings.
As a Catholic for 43 yrs, this makes me sad all over. I dislike people who are not Catholic and "you" thinking you know what my faith is all about. I would never do this to anyone of another faith. That and we are taught not to do this this. Everything we do in our faith is for a reason, and that is the things that keep our faith alive. For our Pope, who has made the decisions to do the things he has done to this point, is unheard of. So for him too wash feet of others who have done many wrong things, this is his way of saying we are not all free of sin. This is a step up from any other pope. There is no greater sin, then what has been done by priests during the late 70's and early 80's.Every Priest who did this should be in jail and never let out. But we can not look back, we can only move ahead. I pray for all who were abused, and the families as well. The power of prayer, is greater then anything in life. "We" as catholic's, believe this is the one thing no harm will come to anyone by doing this. I pray, for all of you who think you know more about my faith, then I do.
I' am so incredibly gay, you would not believe what I'm capable of perform in all of my glorious gayness!
Not from the original Reality.
DEAR BOB, Proof that a prayer was answered. I have definte proof. Whether u believe me, that is up to you. On 9.11 My fellow firefighetrs of Ladder 6 and I were coming down the staircase of World Trade Center after the evacuation came over the radio. Around the 8 th floor, we heard the dinstinct roar of the building pancaking(collapsing above us). Since the other tower had already collapsed, we knew what this sound was exactly and knew that our time was up. Immediately one of my crew starting saying the Our Father and the rest of us without cue joined in. The woman who we were helping down the stairs screamed out, Lord Please help us. That day, none of us died even though the entire tower fell on us. You can read about the Miracle of ladder 6 at your convenience. I'm sure you will refute me and what i have to say as coincidence or whatever else. Doesn't matter to me, but that day a miracle happened many times. Most people got out of the Towers unharmed, there were not many casualties as there should have been in such a disaster and imagine if both towers didn't pancake, but fell on their sides. How many of millions might have died? You cant prove there isn't a God or there is. You can't prove if a miracle happened or it didn't. So I have answered your question, Now I have one to ask you. What do you get out of telling others that they are imbeciles for believing or any of the drivel that spews from your keyboard? Do you feel better putting down others and what they believe in. Whether it be Vishna, Allah, Christ, Buddha or whatever else gives them some solace, why does it bother you if a person's belief bears and has zero effect on your life? So my challenge, Prove to me why another person's faith in a Higher Power has anything to do with you. And wouldn't a kind person accept another human being for trying to emulate a merciful being. Would you really be more comfortable in a world where there was no belief in an afterlife. Or is your life so miserable, Hell to you would be that eternity. Now if thats the case, which I'm assuming t is, then I hope You live FOREVER.
THANK YOU for your message of hope and tolerance, that is what being a Catholic is all about. We have been persecuted and spat upon for 2000 years but have still lived the message of spreading love and compassion for those who need it. Long live Pope Francis and our faith.
"Why is the pope washing peoples feet"
He is trying to make up for generations of child se xu al abuse and coverup?
Does Catholic teaches to hurt oneself in order to remembrance of the crucifixion of Jesus? why does catholic in Philipine do what they are doing? is it okay to hurt urself? my heart is bleeing with sorrow... it made me cry seeing these human the way they are hurting themselves... similar things are done in Shiatte Muslim community... i can't do anything other than praying and I pray for entire mankind...
O Mankind wake up... educate urself to the truth and get out of the darkness... and fear ur Lord who created you from one soul and He created his wife from him and then men and women from them... fear your Lord that you will be meeting Him after this short life... you are here for a test of 'Free Will' whether you fear the Lord who created you or fear your delusion/imaginations... and you are heading towards your Creator...
May be Pope should take initiatives to stop this actions in the name of religion... Praises be to The Almighty who has no partners, no son or anything... as He is not in need of anything but we...
mzh, praying has never, ever caused a divine being to do anything. Get over your delusions and take some actions to correct problems yourself. Otherwise, well, you pray for us, we'll think for you.
Thanks Bob.... one can not be guided if he or she does not want to be guided.... or one can't wake one up if that one pretend to be sleeping, you can only wake someone up if he/she is really in sleeps....
i wish i could do something to stop these human hurting selves... but i can't... so thats why i requested the leader of the Catholics to take an initiative to stop this action... and least i can do is to pray for all...
peace be upon all of you...
No, mzh, you can do much better than praying. Praying does nothing good and causes nothing to happen. Instead of praying, get off your fat lazy butt, get over your delusions and dependency on a sky fairy and religion that has resulted in so much discord and violent conflict.
Stop praying. Start taking action, without calling on a sky fairy that will never come to anyone's aid. Don't pray and wait. Make change for the better happen.
You in Islam there are 2 things and both most of the times are being translated as "Pray" but none of them are correct... let me try to elaborate little bit as much i can...
1. Salah (meaning daily salah and salah word means the connection between me and my Creator and when i stand for salah first thing i say is "Allahuakbar" meaning "Allah The God Almighty is greater than anything" and then you follow the rituals as any other prophets before mohammad pbuh taught their communities...
2. is doua (meaning supplications to The God Almighty) that you ask to The Lord whatever you want and He is the provider of anything in the face of earth or anywhere in the universe...
I do action as much as i can but not everything in my hand...
Peace be upon all of you...
please read as 'You know..."
my apologies for typo...
mzh, present once instance of a divine being every having responded to a prayer, with verifiable evidence that the result was due to divine action. Good luck with that; you'd be the first to ever do so.
Again for some 21st century reality:
John 13: 1-17 (Jesus washes the feet of the disciples). But did he? Said passage is a single attestation found no where else in the NT making historically nil by rigorous modern day standards.
Actually, all of John's Gospel is of questionable historic value.
From Professor Bruce Chilton in his book, Rabbi Jesus,
"Conventionally, scholarship has accorded priority to the first three gospels in historical work on Jesus, putting progressively less credence in works of late date. John's Gospel for example is routinely dismissed as a source......
"Since "the higher criticism" of the 19th century, some historians have largely rejected the gospel of John as a reliable source of information about the historical Jesus. "[M]ost commentators regard the work as anonymous," and date it to 90-100."
"The authorship has been disputed since at least the second century, with mainstream Christianity believing that the author is John the Apostle, son of Zebedee. Modern experts usually consider the author to be an unknown non-eyewitness, though many apologetic Christian scholars still hold to the conservative Johannine view that ascribes authorship to John the Apostle."
And from Professor Gerd Ludemann, in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 416,
"Anyone looking for the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. "
Ooops, that shoud be "making the passage historically nil".
Questionable historical value. Is that right? Honey, then stay away. You don't want to take any chances and allow it to bite you in the fanny
Cor 15.3-5 Acts 13.28-31 Mk. 15.37-16.7 Christ died . . . Though they could charge him with nothing deserving death, yet they asked Pilate to have him killed. And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. he was buried . . . they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb And he [Joseph] bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb. he was raised . . . But God raised him from the dead . . . "He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him." he appeared . . . . . . and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. "But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him."
Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/visions-of-jesus-a-critical-assessment-of-gerd-ludemanns#ixzz2PiR6oWrA
dottie, scholarship ain't your thing. throwing insults is more your speed. u r so stupid
"The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector." jesus
atheists are the pharisees of today. they are better than christians. they say they don't hate god, but their hatred exploded for him like bright, yellow-red burning lava erupting from a volcano. they mean no harm. they only seek the welfare of their own. but they murdered him. they made sure he couldn't pose a threat to them any longer.
Are you claming that Atheists killed your holy zombie?
How do you murder a supernatural being and render them a non threat? Such a god can't be very powerful if a few nonbelievers can eliminate if.
blake, Do you hate Zeus and Krishna?
My humble suggestions to you is to go to The Quran and what it talks about Jesus... as his (Jesus) name is mentioned there 80+ times... there are chapters with his mothers name, with his grand fathers (father of Marry) name and so on... i am not asking you to be a Muslim but see what it says and think what make sense... you may be amazed who knows and will discover something new...
mzh, good job at selling your own good fraud, and you clearly know just where to look for easy recruits. Prime recruiting ground is of course other houses of delusion, such as the Christian blood cult groups. Personally, though, I'm not buying your swampland.
I've got to agree with Bob, you would do best to sell your snake oil on a specifically fundamentalist Christian message board, picking out anyone who looks a little disgruntled. I've read the Quran and it was not only implausible but boring...most non, believers are far too well read to fall for this stuff.
I am glad to hear from both of you and I appreciate your comments on me... unfortunately some muslim's action does not reflects what Quran tells a muslim to be... and ppl take these incorrect actions as the teaching of Islam... i was referring to go and read, sometimes reading will not be enough for you to understand as it is translation... sometimes translation does not give you correct as the quran was revealed in Arabic language... i would recommend if you don't understand some then please go to someone you know who has a real knowledge and not to show off....
i do not expect that if you just know little or entirely would make you muslim as it is completely upon your decision.... quran also commands Muhammad pbuh that 'indeed you do not guide anyone to Islam but it is Allah who guides and who seeks for it"... also i would like to share with you that there are lot of non muslim professors teaches Islam in universities but they are not Muslim... i could give you another example of Karen Armstrong (i hope i got the name correct), she knows Islam more than a lot of muslims.... its the guidance which comes from the Lord of the entire universe with ones seeking for guidence...
Peace to all of you....
mzh, why does your omnipotent being rely on something as primitive as a book to get its message out, rather than use more modern and more direct means? That's just more evidence that your god is entirely man-made fiction.
You would know only if you study this book with patient and user your intellects... please trust me... it may not come in days but years... I have seen or met ppl who spend decades and then testified that this book can't be written by any human... whether you want to know about what science discovered now i.e. the diff stages of a child inside the mothers womb, the universe, the mountains, water does not mixes up btwn salt water and sweet where two seas met, the laws of inheritance, the laws of divorce and so on... you will not find any other books which completes the daily lives need... i am not saying because i am a muslim (for which i thank The Almighty) but i am saying becuase of the contents of the book can't be written by any human especially an illeterate man who never went to school, didn't know how to read or write... and this book has been uninterrupted by any human since its been revealed to mankind which is for almost forteen hundred and fifty years.... i am glad that i could share this little knowledge with you... 🙂 and i am wishing to learn more going forward...
mzh, I've read the Quran and in my view, your claims are largely not supported by its contents. Further, I find many parts of the contents to contradict other parts, or just be intrinsically false or else inaccurate.
Clearly, even that I interpret the contents differently than you is yet more evidence that the text is not from a perfect being; in fact, your deity seems to need major marketing help from you and others. So again, please try to answer my question:
Why does your omnipotent being rely on something as primitive as a book, in this case, clearly a flawed book at that, to get its message out, rather than use more modern and more direct means? That's just more evidence that your god is entirely man-made fiction. I'm stil waiting for your god to do its first tweet. Even the last pope could do that much.
For as long as I can remember (and I’m a bit over 50) every year the pope (Christ’s vicker on earth, the most powerful prayer in the world, Mr. religion himself ) has prayed for peace in the Middle East every Christmas and it hasn’t done a bit of good. He might just as well have wished upon a star. So if decades of praying by Mr. Big doesn’t change anything, then I’ m left to the conclusion that either god does not answer prayer (if not for the big guy then for who?) or there is no god to answer at all
more dorothy. she actually believes this. god will answer the pope's prayer cause he's the dude or he doesn't exist. period. that is the way her mind works. and she truly believes she is a gifted thinker, a scholar.
Or the god wants the Middle East to be as it is.
Or the god wants the Middle East to be as it is."
getting closer dorothy
you don't care for your buddy's mentor
Question to you all: when you say God answers the prayer, which God are you referring to? did you think that every human and a God and everyone asks their own God and they get sometimes answer and sometimes no answer by they all are happy.... like hindu with due respect to hindu community that they go and ask to their idols or monkeys and so on, buddists go and ask a statue of buddah, sikh asks guru nanak, catholic asks marry and dead human, christian in general asks a human and the list could go on and on...
how do you know that which one is being answered by The True God... all can't be correct or true... as Truth can't to more than one but ONE only.... have you thought of it?
my sincere apologie for the typo... please as "did you think that every human has a God"
mzh, present once instance of a divine being every having responded to a prayer, with verifiable evidence that the result was due to divine action. Good luck with that; you'd be the first to ever do so.
Mzh, I was referring to big bad Bob from Boston and his four sisters, Bertha, Bettie, Bonnie, Beulha and Bess.
Prayer changes things
No, it doesn't, nor can it.
Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!
"Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"
That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!
What would be really impressive is owning and cleaning up the pedophile abuse in the church.
the church is you and me, if you believe in christ.
don't wait for somebody else to get cleaned up. no need to wait for anybody to do anything to start influencing others for the one who died a criminal's death
Blake, I'm not part of your nasty blood cult. As for your storybook creature that died, umm, why was that necessary by a "god" to cause anything to happen, such as saving anything? How is it again that your omnipotent being couldn't do his saving bit without the whole silly Jesus hoopla? And how was Jesus' death a "sacrifice", when an omnipotent being could just pop up a replacement son any time with less than a snap of his fingers?
Pretty pathetic "god" that you've made for yourself there.
Ask the questions. Break the chains. Join the movement.
Be free of Christianity and other superstitions.
Gee fat Bob, what do you think?
No cameras, video or news feed required for this act of humility.
strict warning not to do "religious" deeds of giving and praying before men to be seen by men. that doesn't mean that those kinds of deeds cannot be done in public. it is the motive that is key-to be seen.
it would be equally vain to avoid doing good deeds before men to prove the approval of men is not important. it is the motive
Show Bob one example of god answering prayer. Why? Find your own god, Bob.
I don't care what religion this guy professes. I love him. He is awesome. That he leads the Catholic Church is a wonderful thing. What could be better? Ok, maybe Mother Theresa, but still.
Seriously now. It may sound funny but think about it... if politicians and CEO's did the same thing more or less- there would be peace on earth in a fortnight.
Would that be so bad?
Thank you Pope Francis. Thank you from a practicing atheist.
This atheist wants peace on earth as much as anybody!
"Seriously now. It may sound funny but think about it... if politicians and CEO's did the same thing more or less- there would be peace on earth in a fortnight." majav
what about if you and i did the same things?
Very good points, Saraswati.
Sarrangetti, just start washing feet, moron. You need the exercise and so does your buddy, fat bob.
Believe it or not this is still an act of lawlessness.
Indulging his foot fetish on young men, I see.
He gives them the full bath and massage when the cameras aren't there.
The odds are against him having a foot fetish, but knowing what we now know about how the foot is mapped in the brain and the number of people who do have foot fetishes this seems an odd choice for the church. It is also a bit odd to use a ritual that no longer has deep meaning in our society.
I like the idea of showing this kind of humility and compassion, but I think it would be better done using acts that make sense in the modern context. If I were sick or suffering I would much rather have the pope come to my house and cook a meal or even clean my bathrooms than wash my feet which I can, and would prefer to, do on my own.
Because he can!
to TG, this is a feairy taile........