Pope Francis Washes Refugees' Feet In Catholic Ritual

The pope also officially decreed that women -- previously barred from the ceremony -- would now be included.

03/24/2016 06:39 pm ET | Updated Mar 25, 2016
Osservatore Romano / Reuters
Pope Francis kisses the foot of a refugee during the foot washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center near Rome, Italy, March 24, 2016.

Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of 12 refugees Thursday at a migrant center in Castelnuovo di Porto outside of Rome, Italy. The ceremony took place as part of the observances of Maundy Thursday, the Holy Thursday before Easter that dates back to the story of Jesus' Last Supper.

In a powerful gesture of interfaith embrace, the pontiff knelt down before a group of eight men and four women, among whom were Muslims, Coptic Christians and one Hindu.

 "All of us together: Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelicals ... all brothers and children of the same God," the pontiff said during a Mass before the foot washing ceremony. "We want to live together in peace."

In previous years, Francis has observed Maundy Thursday by washing the feet of prisoners, the elderly and people with disabilities. Shortly after his election as pope in 2013, the pontiff made waves by including women in his foot washing ceremony at a juvenile detention center.

This year, Francis officially decreed that women would be included in the ceremony from here on out.

Take a look at photos of Pope Francis's Maundy Thursday ceremony below:

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Pope Francis is greeted by migrants during his visit at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center outside of Rome, Thursday, March 24, 2016.
  • Osservatore Romano / Reuters
  • Pope Francis kisses the foot of a refugee during the foot washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center.
  • Osservatore Romano / Reuters
  • Pope Francis kisses the foot of a refugee.
  • Osservatore Romano / Reuters
  • Pope Francis blesses a baby during the foot washing ritual.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Pope Francis shakes hands with Muslims during his visit at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center.
  • Osservatore Romano / Reuters
  • A refugee kisses the hand of Pope Francis after the foot washing ritual.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Pope Francis poses for a selfie during his visit to the refugees center.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • Pope Francis is presented with gifts during his visit to the refugees center.

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