"Two Gestures" – In Lord's Supper, "Let Brotherhood Be Contagious In the World"
As the Syrian refugee crisis – the world's largest forced movement of persons since World War II – continues to resonate far and wide, and with Tuesday's attacks in Brussels spurring a fresh burst of scrutiny of migrants in Europe and beyond, in yet another reinforcement of his solidarity with the displaced, Francis chose to bring this year's opening of the Triduum to a refugee center at Castelnuovo di Porto, 15 miles outside Rome, where the community of 900 transients (from 25 countries) is mostly non-Catholic.
Due to the size of the throng, the Mass (fullvideo) was notably held outdoors, with the altar sheltered under a tent.
While the wider church is now officially permitted to include women and children in the liturgy's rite of the Washing of the Feet thanks to the January decree issued at Francis' behest, like many pastors Papa Bergoglio had long taken to doing it anyway. Among the 12 chosen for tonight's edition of the rite were four women; per Italian reports, the whole group included three Muslims, a Hindu, and a worker at the facility alongside the refugees.
According to an explanatory note released on Tuesday from the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (the Vatican arm overseeing the coordination of this Jubilee Year of Mercy), the Pope wanted his intent to be unmistakably clear: by "washing the feet of the refugees, [he] demands respect for each one of them," and to underscore anew in the process "the path of respect as the high way towards peace."
As has invariably been the case over this liturgy's earlier editions at youth prisons and a nursing home, as the moment unfolded among the migrants, tears could be seen in the eyes of those who took part and the rest looking on.
Here, the video of tonight's Mandatum itself...
...and Vatican Radio's English translation of Francis' brief, unscripted homily:
Gestures speak louder than pictures and words. There are, in the Word of God we read, two gestures: Jesus serving, washing the feet ... He, who was the “head man”, washing the feet of others, of His own, even of the least; one gesture. The second gesture: Judas who goes to the enemies of Jesus, those who do not want peace with Jesus, to take the money that bought His betrayal; the 30 pieces of silver.-30-
Even today, here, there are two gestures: this, of all of us together, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Copts, Evangelical [Protestants] brothers and sisters – children of the same God – we want to live in peace, integrated. One gesture. Three days ago, an act of war, of destruction in a European city, by people who do not want to live in peace. Though behind that gesture, as there were behid that of Judas, there were others. Behind Judas there were those who offered money, that Jesus be delivered up to them. Behind that [other] gesture [on Tuesday in Belgium], there are manufacturers, arms dealers who want blood, not peace; they want the war, not fraternity.
Two gestures, just the same: Jesus washes feet, Judas sold Jesus for money. You, we, all of us together, of different religions, different cultures, but children of the same Father, brothers – and there, those poor people, who buy weapons to wreck fraternity. Today, at this time, when I do the same act of Jesus washing the feet of twelve of you, let us all make an gesture of brotherhood, and let us all say: “We are different, we are different, we have different cultures and religions, but we are brothers and we want to live in peace.”
This, then, is the gesture that I make with you. Each of us has a story, each of you has a story you carry with you. Many crosses, many sorrows: but also an open heart that wants brotherhood. Let each, in his religious language, pray the Lord that this brotherhood be contagious in the world, that there be no 30 pieces of silver to purchase a brother’s murder, that there be always brotherhood and goodness. So be it.