Church must be open to sick, homeless, pope says on Holy Thursday
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Francis, starting four packed days culminating in Easter, said the Catholic Church must always be a refuge for the needy and later washed the feet of 12 disabled people at a traditional Holy Thursday ceremony.
In the morning, Francis, who regularly urges priests to shun material comforts or the desire to climb clerical career ladders, led the first of two solemn services on the day that Christians commemorate the founding of the priesthood by Jesus.
In the grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica, he celebrated a "Mass of the Chrism" during which he and priests renewed the vows they took on the day of their ordination and he blessed oils to be used in administering sacraments during the year.
At the mass, attended by some 10,000 people and accompanied by a pontifical choir, he delivered a sermon on the need for priests to live a simple, poor life.
He described the Church as "a house with open doors, a refuge for sinners, a home for people living on the streets, a place of loving care for the sick, a camp for the young, a classroom."
Holy Thursday commemorates the day on which Catholics believe Jesus founded the priesthood at the Last Supper with his apostles, before he was betrayed and arrested on the eve of his crucifixion.
MEETING THE POOR
In the afternoon, the Argentine-born pontiff travelled to a Church-run rehabilitation centre on Rome's outskirts for a service where he washed and kissed the feet of 12 sick and disabled people, in commemoration of Jesus' gesture of humility towards his apostles on the night before he died. Continued...