Pope to wash asylum seekers' feet in Easter ritual

VATICAN CITY, Holy See – Pope Francis will wash the feet of 12 young asylum seekers to highlight the need for the international community to provide shelter to refugees, the Vatican said Tuesday, March 22.

The pontiff will visit the town of Castelnuovo di Porto north of Rome on Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus Christ's Last Supper with the apostles, and perform the Easter ritual there.

"He will kneel in front of 12 asylum seekers to wash their feet in a gesture... bringing attention to their condition," Archbishop Rino Fisichella said.

Francis has long called for the global community, and Europe in particular, to open its doors to refugees and step up the fight against xenophobia.

The ceremony is part of the run-up to Easter Sunday, and has seen the Argentine pontiff in the past wash the feet of prison inmates and disabled people.

Shortly after his election in 2013, Francis visited a youth detention center where he performed the ritual on a group of young inmates including two Muslims – the first Catholic leader ever to do so. – Rappler.com