Priests, doctors and nurses who gave their lives are our ‘next-door neighbour’ saints – Pope Francis

epa08353868 A handout picture provided by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis leading the 'In Coena Domini' Mass on Holy Thursday at the Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, 09 April 2020. EPA-EFE/VATICAN MEDIA HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

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Pope Francis presided over the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday in St. Peter’s Basilica. He recalled how Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles and invited the faithful to allow the Lord to love and serve them.

The Pope thanked God for the ministry of so many unnamed priests, several of whom have sacrificed their lives – especially those who have died recently while serving the sick in hospitals and clinics amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In unscripted remarks during the homily, the Pope recalled three key words for Holy Thursday: Eucharist, Service, Anointment. Referring to the liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, he said, “I can’t allow this Mass to pass by without mentioning the priesthood and all the priests who offer their lives for the Lord.”

Pope Francis recalled that in these dramatic days marked by the coronavirus pandemic, many priests have died here in Italy while caring for the sick, together with doctors and nurses in the hospitals. “They are our ‘next-door-neighbour’ saints,” who have given their lives to serve the Lord and the faithful, he said.

“They are our ‘next-door-neighbour’ saints,” who have given their lives to serve the Lord and the faithful, he said.

Pope Francis then turned his thoughts to the many parish priests and prison chaplains who take the Gospel into small towns and into prisons, and to the scores of anonymous priests in mission territories, many of whom die and are buried far from the eyes of the world.

“No one knows their names,” the Pope said. “They are good priests and I carry them in my heart.”

“No one knows their names,” the Pope said. “They are good priests and I carry them in my heart.”

He also spoke of the many priests who have suffered calumny and insult, “who cannot walk the streets” because of the shame brought about by the discovery of some of the awful things some priests have done.

“Today you are all with me at the altar,” he said. “Don’t be hard-headed like Peter: allow the Lord to wash your feet, learn to forgive the other.  Just as you have forgiven, you will be forgiven. Never be afraid to forgive.”

Pope Francis concluded his homily giving thanks to God for the grace of the priesthood: “I thank God for you, priests. Jesus loves you. I ask only that you allow your feet to be washed.”

Contrary to tradition that normally sees the Pope celebrate Holy Thursday Mass outside the Vatican, this year’s ceremony took place at the Altar of the Chair in an almost empty St. Peter’s Basilica. The liturgy did not include the washing of the feet, out of respect for directives intended to curb the spread of Covid-19. The Mass was streamed live and Christians across the world were invited to participate.

Via Vatican News 

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