The pontiff has opened the solemn final days of Holy Week with a morning Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
Pope Francis preferred to skip the traditional Thursday afternoon service that commemorates Jesus’s Last Supper with his apostles due to the complex health situation in the Vatican.
The 84-year-old Francis still suffers frequent bouts of sciatica nerve pain, so he may have opted to delegate the service given his busy liturgical schedule over the coming days that culminates with Easter Sunday Mass.
In a pre-epidemic era, Francis used to travel to a prison or refugee centre for the Holy Thursday service. The Roman Catholic world knows the pontiff involves a foot-washing ritual that is meant to symbolise god’s willingness to serve. In 2021, this important ceremony will be cancelled, too.
In his homily, Francis offered a personal memory of hearing a confession from a nun and having asked her, as her penance, to pray for him. Pope concludes every Sunday blessing with a request that the faithful pray for him. He did so again on Thursday during the oil-blessing Mass, commenting on: “I need it.”