Pope Francis denounces modern-day ‘Judases’ behind terror attacks

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Pope Francis washes the foot of a refugee during the foot-washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center near Rome, Italy, on March 24, 2016. Pope Francis on Thursday washed and kissed the feet of refugees, including three Muslim men, and condemned arms makers as partly responsible for Islamist militant attacks that killed at least 31 people in Brussels. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Pope Francis washes the foot of a refugee during the foot-washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center near Rome, Italy, on March 24, 2016. Pope Francis on Thursday washed and kissed the feet of refugees, including three Muslim men, and condemned arms makers as partly responsible for Islamist militant attacks that killed at least 31 people in Brussels. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Pope Francis leads the Chrism Mass in Saint Peter's Basilica on March 24, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini.

Pope Francis leads the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 24, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

VATICAN CITY (RNS) As the death toll from the Brussels terror attacks rose, Pope Francis began three days of solemn observances leading to Easter Sunday by denouncing those who fuel terrorism the way some once backed Judas against Jesus.

On Thursday (March 24) he washed the feet of a dozen migrants at an asylum center north of Rome — several of them Muslims — saying his gesture was meant to show that we are “all brothers and children of the same God: We want to live together in peace.”

He then pointed to the terror attacks in the Belgian capital on Tuesday “by people who do not want to live in peace.”

“Behind Judas” — the apostle who betrayed Jesus after the Last Supper that the pope was re-enacting — “there were those who gave the money so that Jesus would be handed over.

“Behind ‘that’ gesture, there are manufacturers, arms dealers who want blood, not peace; they want war, not brotherhood. Two gestures, the same: Jesus washes the feet; Judas sold Jesus for money.”

“Gestures speak louder than pictures and words,” Francis said before washing and kissing the feet of the migrants, some of whom were moved to tears.

“Each of us has a story within us,” the pontiff continued.

“So many crosses, so many sorrows, but we also have a heart open to brotherhood. May each one of us, in our own religious language, beg the Lord that this brotherhood be contagious in the world, so that there are not 30 coins to kill our brother, so that there will always be brotherhood and goodness.”

Only a fraction of the nearly 900 asylum-seekers at the center came to the service, The Associated Press reported, and many seats were empty. The pope greeted each of the attendees personally, and many posed for pictures with him.

The highly symbolic Holy Week ritual commemorates the rite that Jesus practiced with his Twelve Apostles before his Crucifixion, and the pope’s inclusion of women — as well as non-Catholics — has prompted much debate.


RELATED STORY: Pope Francis opens foot-washing rite to women in gesture of inclusion


The 12 immigrants at the Reception Center for Asylum Seekers in Castelnuovo di Porto included three Muslims — from Syria, Pakistan and Mali — and one Hindu from India. Three were Coptic Christian women from Eritrea and the Catholics were from Nigeria.

Earlier this week, Vatican official Archbishop Rino Fisichella, who is leading Francis’ Year of Mercy programs, said the pope’s choice of refugees was significant due to the migration crisis engulfing Europe.

“We can understand the symbolic value intended by Francis,” Fisichella wrote in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

“His actions mean to tell us that it is important to pay due attention to the weakest in this historic moment; that we are all called to restore their dignity without resorting to subterfuge.

“By washing the feet of refugees, Francis implores respect for each one of them,” Fisichella said.

Pope Francis washes the foot of a refugee during the foot-washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center near Rome, Italy, on March 24, 2016. Pope Francis on Thursday washed and kissed the feet of refugees, including three Muslim men, and condemned arms makers as partly responsible for Islamist militant attacks that killed at least 31 people in Brussels. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Pope Francis washes the foot of a refugee during the foot-washing ritual at the Castelnuovo di Porto refugees center near Rome, Italy, on March 24, 2016. Pope Francis on Thursday washed and kissed the feet of refugees, including three Muslim men, and condemned arms makers as partly responsible for Islamist militant attacks that killed at least 31 people in Brussels. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Osservatore Romano/Handout via Reuters

Traditionally, the foot-washing by the pope — or any bishop or priest — had been performed on men.

But soon after his election in 2013, the pope shocked conservatives by using the occasion to wash the feet of women, Muslims and Orthodox Christians at a prison in Rome.

In January, Francis formally changed the regulations to explicitly allow women and girls to participate.

Earlier in the day, in a morning Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to start Holy Thursday observances, the pontiff told priests that Jesus had fought not for his own glory but to break down walls “to open the flood gates of mercy … he wants to pour out upon our world.”

“The mercy of our God is infinite and indescribable,” Francis said. “We express the power of this mystery as an ‘ever greater’ mercy … advancing in that wasteland where indifference and violence have predominated.”

Francis sought to highlight the need for mercy, which is also the theme of the 2016 Jubilee Year that he launched in December.

“Mercy restores everything; it restores dignity to each person,” the pope said.

Speaking directly to thousands of priests at the Mass, Francis urged them to stay close to the poor and marginalized.

“As priests we identify with people who are excluded, people the Lord saves,” he said. “We remind ourselves that there are countless masses of people who are poor, uneducated, prisoners, who find themselves in such situations because others oppress them.”

Francis warned that priests themselves “are often blind” to those who are suffering, sometimes “because of an excess of complicated theology” or “because of an excessive ‘bubbly’ spirituality, a ‘light’ spirituality.”

“We feel ourselves also trapped, not so much by insurmountable stone walls or steel enclosures that affect many peoples, but rather by a digital, virtual worldliness that is opened and closed by a simple click,” he said.

“We are oppressed, not by threats and pressures, like so many poor people, but by the allure of a thousand commercial advertisements which we cannot shrug off … ”

During the service, known as the Chrism Mass, the pope blessed sacred oils that will be used during the Easter vigil and other liturgical celebrations throughout the year.


RELATED STORY: Brussels attacks: How radicalization happens


Security has been stepped up across Italy and extra police will be on duty at the Vatican and at other popular tourist sites at the weekend as Europe continues to reel from the deadly bomb attacks in Belgium.

The death toll from the Brussels attacks by suspected Islamic extremists rose to 32 on Thursday, while 300 were injured, 60 seriously, according to media reports.

(Josephine McKenna writes for RNS from Rome)

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  • ben in oakland

    The pope should explain that to the catholic bishops of Malawi, who recently urged their government to criminalize homosexuality and jail homosexuals.

    because they “sin”, y’know.

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  • Doc Anthony

    Don’t worry Ben; THIS pope is headed in exactly that direction. This is the Pontiff you been waiting for all these centuries, dude !!!

    Whatever his private beliefs may be, Pope Francis is absolutely on YOUR side as far as **legalizing** gay marriage is concerned.

    He simply prefers smuggling gay marriage through the back door, instead of breaking down the front door and setting off burglar alarms.

  • In “embrace outcasts, not complicated theology,” the Roman Catholic pope is attempting to recalibrate priorities. I submit that theology that is complicated reflects more on (and of) us than of that which goes beyond the limits of human cognition anyway. That is to say, to clothe a divine object with complicated concepts is, in a way, to anthropomorphize the object. In the last chapter of my book, “God’s Gold,” I try to sketch how Christianity and religion more generally would look were religious experience rather than complicated theology central. I posit that such a basis would be more reliable in terms of compassion. In other words, religious experience, more so than complicated theology, bears a connection to compassion. That’s my theory, anyway.

  • Ben in oakland

    This isn’t about your pet obsession with marriage, doc. It’s about criminalizing the outcast for their sins.

    But you knew that.

    The only pope I’m waiting for will be the very last one.

  • Ben in oakland

    Way to sneak in a plug for your book.

  • William Murphy

    Criminalizing sins is sometimes good: for example murder, rape and robbery.

  • Ben in oakland

    You,re wrong, of course.

    It’s not gay marriage, it’s not homosexual marriage, it’s just marriage.

    And according to a good number of Christian and Jewish denominations, it’s not only allowed, it’s encouraged. And even in Islam, at least in the civilized world, that is beginning to change.

    But it’s always nice to know that the three religions that have been slaughtering each other for the last 2000 years can agree which of god’s people they can put aside their slaughters and divisions for and just have someone as an object of plain, unadulterated hate.

    Why, it’s almost enough to make you think that it isn’t about faith at all.

  • Ben in oakland

    They were crimes long before they were sins.

  • Betty Clermont

    An April 2015 article in Il Sole 24 Ore stated the Vatican’s assets – securities, commercial real estate and bank accounts – for all its departments and offices combined “by a conservative estimate” would be around 15-17 billion euro. Yet the pope is monetarily sponsoring only 2 refugee families (catholicnewsagency.com)

    To address a comment, as cardinal and pope, he has consistently voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage.

  • John

    Ben, one of the problems with being reflexively oppositional is that it can lead you to assertions that make you look breathtakingly ignorant. On reflection, I’m sure you’d like to have this one back.

  • Everett

    Brussels terror attacks are modern day Judas? Does not the Pope conflate Islam with Christianity when he makes those comparisons? If so then he is wrong to do so.

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Life is a beautiful gift. Needs to be cherished rendering praise and thanks to the Almighty.

  • patrick

    @ Tom
    ” It isn’t gay marriage , it’s homosexual marriage. ”
    Wrong. Ben is exactly right – It’s just marriage.

    ” And according to Judaism, Christianity and Islam it isn’t allowed. ”
    This statement is also wrong. In so stating you intrinsically claim to know and understand all of the religious practices of the various sects of the Abrahamic Religions. You don’t.

  • Tom

    This Pope is clueless. Judas loved Jesus. He thought that by turning over Jesus to the authorities , that they would understand who Jesus was. He took the money , but it’s hard to explain why he did that. It was a lot of money and he gave it back. Jesus would have gone to the cross regardless of what Judas did. Judas is maligned in history, he is forgiven no doubt. This Pope as well as many others are wrong about Judas.

  • So we are all worshipping the same God and Allah says kill and terrorize infidels wherever you find them?. Pope Francis is sadly naïve, Article: “When Not to be a Good Samaritan”
    http://wp.me/p4kNWg-9K

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