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Pope Francis washes feet of elderly, disabled in rite

In a Holy Thursday ritual, Pope Francis washed the feet of some people at Rome’s Don Gnocchi Foundation Center.

L’Osservatore Romano/Associated Press

In a Holy Thursday ritual, Pope Francis washed the feet of some people at Rome’s Don Gnocchi Foundation Center.

ROME — Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people Thursday — women and non-Catholics among them — in a pre-Easter ritual designed to show his willingness to serve others like a ‘‘slave.’’

The pope’s decision in 2013 to perform the Holy Thursday ritual on women and Muslim inmates at a juvenile detention center helped define his rule-breaking papacy just two weeks after his election. It riled traditionalist Catholics, who pointed to the Vatican’s own regulations that the ritual be performed only on men since Jesus’ 12 apostles were men.

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But as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he frequently performed the ritual on women — a practice that he seems intent on keeping up now that he is pope.

The 2014 edition brought Francis to a center for the disabled and elderly in Rome. He kneeled down, washed, dried, and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs.

The Vatican said the people who took part in the ritual came from various religions.

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