04/05/2012 05:35 pm ET Updated Apr 05, 2012

Maundy Thursday: Pope Washes Feet At Mass Of Last Supper (PHOTOS)

(Reuters) - Pope Benedict washed and dried the feet of 12 men at a traditional Holy Thursday service commemorating Christ's gesture of humility to his apostles on the night before he died.

The 81-year-old German-born Pope, approaching the fourth Easter of his pontificate, called on Catholics to avoid temptation of material possessions and "vanities."

During the service, he poured water over the right feet of 12 men sitting on raised platforms and dried them. The ritual was held in Rome's Basilica of St. John's in Lateran, the Pope's cathedral in his capacity as bishop of the Italian capital.

Earlier, the Pope said in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica that Catholics must embrace the eternal truth of God instead of being influenced by "prevailing opinions" and superficiality.

Both services were to mark Christ's founding of the priesthood at the Last Supper on the night before he died.

On Good Friday, the Pope will hold two services commemorating Christ's crucifixion, including a Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession around the ruins of Rome's Colosseum.

He says an Easter Eve mass Saturday night and Sunday will deliver an "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) blessing and message.

The Pope's heavy Easter schedule comes as much of Italy's attention is turned to an earthquake that has killed more than 280 people just 100 km (60 miles) outside Rome.

The pope has said he would visit the area soon and Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone will preside over a funeral for the victims Friday.