15 March 2016
Christopher Lamb in Rome
Pope Francis to wash migrants' feet on Holy Thursday
Pope Francis is to wash the feet of twelve migrants on Holy Thursday, a gesture that is likely to be interpreted as a sign for Europe to make greater efforts to welcome refugees.
According to a report in America magazine, he will perform the traditional Maundy Thursday feet washing ritual on 24 March at a migrant centre in Rome.
Francis has made the plight of migrants a key element of his pontificate. His first visit outside Rome as Pope was to Lampedusa, in southern Italy, the point of entry for thousands coming from North Africa.
He has also used Holy Thursday as a moment to show the radical nature of Christian service to those on the margins of society. On two occasions he has washed the feet of prisoners and during his first Holy Week as Bishop of Rome washed the feet of two Muslims and two women.
And earlier this year the Pope ordered a change in the rules to allow women to participate in the foot washing ritual.
On migration Francis has urged the European church to welcome new arrivals at the same time accepting that the unprecedented numbers of migrants threaten to overburden the old continent.
Europe is experiencing unprecedented levels of migration with more than a million new arrivals last year. The number of Syrians seeking asylum doubled to 362,800 in 2015 and the number of Iraqis increased to 121,500, according to the European Commission.
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